Lebeau, Suzanne

Suzanne Lebeau, playwright (b at Montréal 28 Apr 1948). In more than 35 years of unfailing commitment to children, Suzanne Lebeau has become one of the most important voices in dramatic art for youthful audiences at the international level. Through the years, in more than 25 original works for theatre, many translated into some 15 languages, she has been able to push the limits of what one can say to children. The winner of many awards, her success has placed her among the most widely performed Québécois authors in the world.

The second of six children in a family of relatively modest means, Suzanne Lebeau grew up with a thirst for learning and freedom of thought, and considered her childhood as privileged. She devoured books, discovered theatre during her adolescence in the mid 1960s, and dreamed of becoming an actor. Between 1966 and 1973, she studied drama, and performed in classic and contemporary repertoire from the ancient Greeks to Stoppard, through Molière and Ionesco. She studied with Jacques Crête and Gilles Maheu, with the mime Étienne Decroux in Paris for a year, and then in Poland at Wroclaw's Henryk Tomaszewski Pantomime Theatre and Puppet Theatre for another year. Through a summer contract with Théâtre La Roulotte in Longueuil, she got to know children's audiences, and never looked back.

In the full golden age of collective creation in Québec, when the author's role was being challenged, Suzanne Lebeau wrote her first children's play, Ti-Jean voudrait ben s'marier, mais.... In 1975, with her partner Gervais Gaudreault, who would stage most of her plays, she founded Le Carrousel, a Québec theatre company that pioneered in producing shows expressly for young audiences. Beginning in 1979, with Une lune entre deux maisons, the first Canadian play written specifically for young children, Suzanne Lebeau achieved success in France and elsewhere; the work was performed about 800 times by Le Carrousel and others, and translated into 6 languages. Then followed Les Petits Pouvoirs (1981); Gil, based on Howard Buten's novel Quand j'avais 5 ans, je m'ai tué (1987); Contes d'enfants réels (1990); Salvador (1994); L'Ogrelet (1997); Petit Pierre (2001); Souliers de sable (2005); and Le Bruit des os qui craquent (2006), works that confirmed her reputation.

Suzanne Lebeau's complete writing process starts with children, her initial inspiration, and from deep instincts related to a subject or desire to explain. While experimenting with different approaches depending on the works in creation, the author always puts meeting her audiences at the heart of her pursuits. Sought after in French-speaking Europe and Latin America, Lebeau has given many workshops and conferences, and taken part in authors' residencies. Various theatre festivals throughout the world - in Africa, Argentina, Spain, Mexico, Russia and the United States - have invited Le Carrousel, Gervais Gaudreault and Suzanne Lebeau to participate. Several cohorts of playwriting students at the NATIONAL THEATRE SCHOOL OF CANADA, where Lebeau taught for 13 years, have benefitted from the generous advice of the author, who also acts as an advisor to young writers.

Many major awards highlight the importance of Suzanne Lebeau's work in Canada and abroad: the Chalmers Children's Play Award for Les Petits Pouvoirs/Little Victories (1985), the prix Francophonie Jeunesse from Radio France Internationale (1995), the literary prize from la citoyenneté de Maine et Loire for Salvador (2002), and a Masque for best original script from the Académie québécoise du théâtre for L'Ogrelet (2000). Her most recent play, Le Bruit des os qui craquent (The Sound of Bones Breaking), a shocking work that deals with child soldiers, won the prix des Journées de Lyon des auteurs de théâtre (2007), the Distinction from the Comédie-Française (2008) where it will be performed on stage in 2010, the prix Sony Labou Tansi des Lycéens, the prix de l'Association québécoise des critiques de théâtre, and a GOVERNOR GENERAL'S LITERARY AWARD (2009). In 1998, the Assemblée internationale des parlementaires de langue française made Suzanne Lebeau a Knight of the Ordre de la Pléiade for her lifetime body of work.