Michel Tremblay was born in Montreal in 1942. He is the most produced playwright in the history of Quebec theatre, and internationally he is considered one of the leading French-language dramatists writing today. His plays have been translated into over 20 languages and staged worldwide. He has written nearly 30 plays, 20 translations and adaptations, 7 screenplays, the books of 3 musicals, an opera libretto, 12 novels, and 4 volumes of autobiography. He is the recipient of many honours and awards from home and abroad.
Tremblay's career is distinguished by his sustained commitment to chronicling in his plays and novels the lives of the people of Plateau Mont-Royal, the francophone working-class area in Montreal where he grew up. An aspect of this has been his creative exploration of the resources of the urban dialect spoken there, the distinctive French of Quebec known as Québécois. In the 1960s the Montreal demotic variety was stigmatised by detractors as joual, or 'horse language' -- joual being the Québécois pronunciation of standard French, cheval = 'horse'. Tremblay's 1968 play LES BELLES SOEURS (THE GUID SISTERS) proved a landmark work of considerable controversy because of its unapologetic assertion of joual -- and more broadly of Québécois -- as a vehicle fit for serious and artistically ambitious drama. LES BELLES SOEURS was first produced at the Théâtre du Rideau Vert, in Montreal. It was immediately acclaimed by critics and public alike and has since been performed in many countries. In 1973, the Paris production, presented at l’Espace Cardin by the Montreal-based Compagnie des deux chaises, was declared the best foreign production of the year.
LES BELLES SOEURS has been called the single most important event in the history of Quebec theatre. The 25th anniversary production in 1993, by La Compagnie Jean Duceppe, played to more than 100 sold-out houses at Place des Arts in Montreal, and on tour throughout Quebec.
In 1972, Michel Tremblay wrote his first full-length film script, II ÉTAIT UNE FOIS DANS L’EST, which was directed by André Brassard in 1973. In 1974, the film represented Canada at the Cannes and Chicago Film Festivals. Brassard and Tremblay had previously collaborated on a short film, FRANÇOISE DUROCHER, WAITRESS, which won three Canadian Genie prizes in 1972. In 1976, Tremblay wrote a second full-length film script, LE SOLEIL SE LÈVE EN RETARD, which was also directed by André Brassard.
His play, MESSE SOLENNELLE POUR UNE PLEINE LUNE D’ÉTÉ was given its first production by the Compagnie Jean Duceppe, in February, 1996. It has since been seen in translation under the title SOLEMN MASS FOR A FULL MOON IN SUMMER at the Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh and subsequently at the Barbican Theatre, London in 2000. His most recent play ENCORE UN FOIS, SI VOUS PERMETTEZ was first produced in 1998 at the Théâtre Rideau Vert and almost simultaneously performed by Centaur Theatre in the English version FOR THE PLEASURE OF SEEING HER AGAIN. In 1999-2000 this last production was seen on a Canadian tour.
He has received 6 grants from the Canada Arts Council, as well as many honours, including Chevalier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres de France in 1984 (promoted to Officier in 1991). In the same year he was named Chevalier de l'Ordre National du Quebec. He has been given four honorary doctorates by Concordia University and McGill University in Quebec, the University of Windsor in Ontario, and Stirling University in Scotland. In 1999 he received the Governor General’s Performing Arts Award.