Cole Foundation funding intercultural theatre in Montreal

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Cole Foundation funding intercultural theatre in Montreal

By Carmel Kilkenny |
Monday 20 March, 2017

The Cole Foundation continues the wishes of Jack Cole, the man who established the foundation in 1980. “What is the use of living if not to make this world a better place for mankind.” was his motto.

Born and raised in Montreal, Jack Cole believed in sharing with the community. He established the financial framework to support research into paediatric and young adult lymphoma, and care, having lost his only child, a son, to the disease.

“Theatre is stories”

Now Barry Cole, Jack’s nephew, is proud of the expanded work the foundation is doing to foster intercultural dialogue in Montreal.

The catalyst for this development was the mounting racial tension in the province of Quebec in the first decade of the new millennium.

Amid all the talk and protests of reasonable accommodation around the growing Muslim minority, the humanity and the connections were being lost in Quebec.

Barry Cole, said he was struck by a phrase in the Bouchard Taylor Report, issued at the end of a commission investigating the sources and realities of the racial conflicts.

Subtitled “A Time for Reconciliation”, the report stated that immigrants to Quebec were becoming ghettoised because the Francophone majority and the Anglophone minority were not welcoming.

”Use the arts as a way to change social values, or cultural values”

Barry Cole saw the opportunity to “use the arts as a way to change social values, or cultural values.” Using the art of theatre of literature, more specifically he says, because, “theatre is stories.”

“If I hear the story of an immigrant then I become more sympathetic to that person, I have a greater sense of understanding, and through that sympathy and understanding I have a greater sense of tolerance, which is something that we see is needed very much in society today.” Cole says.

A jury of five theatre professionals from both Montreal’s English and French theatre scenes oversee the annual competition deciding which projects will get funded. Cole says there have been more French applications recently, and last year saw the most applications ever.

The result is that productions, such as the Black Theatre Workshop version of Lorena Gale‘s play “Angelique” is currently having a run at the Segal Centre.

It tells the story of the young black slave who is said to have set the fire that burned down her master’s house and then most of old Montreal at the time. She was tried, convicted and executed in 1734. It is said the fire was in retaliation for the abuses and rape she suffered at the hands of her owner, but most of the details remain a mystery.

Kim’s Convenience, Ins Choi’s play about the Korean immigrant family running a corner store in Toronto, dealing with the arrival of the mammoth Walmart, just completed a run in the same space.

The Tashme Project – ‘The Living Archives’, was another production helped by the foundation. It took the actual interviews from the Japanese Canadians who were children when their families were interned in Canada, and shared their experiences on stage.

“Today I think multiculturalism has changed and it is more like inter-culturalism, it is a dialogue between cultures, and within that dialogue, or through that dialogue both cultures change a little bit, and they reach a compromise or an understanding of each other.” Cole says.

Now the Cole Foundation is funding another slate of work for audiences entertainment, education, and empathy.