Qui est Wajdi? - A timeline of Wajdi Mouawad's life and career.
Over the past twenty years Wajdi Mouawad has established himself, both in Canada and in Europe, as a uniquely original player on the contemporary theatre scene, acclaimed for his direct and uncompromising narratives and his spare and compelling theatre aesthetic. He has built an international reputation for deeply humanist theatre that examines the human experience with keenness and compassion, and emphasizes the power of the actor as spokesperson in the fullest sense of the word. In his writing as in his directing, Mouawad investigates the tension between the importance of individual resistance and the no less essential renunciation of the self. On this subject he is fond of quoting Kafka:“In the struggle between yourself and the world, back the world.”
Born in Lebanon in 1968, Wajdi Mouawad fled the war-torn country with his family; they lived in Paris for a few years, and then settled in Montreal. In 1991, shortly after graduating from the National Theatre School of Canada, he embarked on a quadruple career as an actor, writer, director and producer.
He has since worked as an actor with some of Quebec’s and France’s most well-known directors. Notably, in 2008, Mouawad premiered his one-man show in France, Seuls, before playing to sold-outhouses at Théâtre d’Aujourd’hui in Montreal and the National Arts Centre in Ottawa. He also recently appeared in the production of Camus’ Les Justes at La Colline – national theatre in Paris, among others.
In all his work, from his own plays (over fifteen to date, including Tideline, Scorched, Forests and Heavens and several plays for young audiences, including Alphonse and Starved) and adaptations (including Céline’s Journey to the End of the Night and Cervantes’ Don Quixote), the productions he has directed (including Macbeth, The Trojan Woman and Three Sisters, etc), to novels (Visage Retrouvé and Anima) Wajdi Mouawad expresses the conviction that “art bears witness to human existence through the prism of beauty.”
From 2000 to 2004 he was the artistic director of Montreal’s Théâtre de Quat’Sous, where he set himself the mission of creating theatre that takes its rightful place as a voice in the stream of civic dialogue, a voice that refuses to yield to our market-driven culture, a voice that fulfils its duty to remember the past while probing the meaning of life in the present. In 2005, he founded two companies (one on each side of the Atlantic) specializing in the development of new work: Abé carré cé carré in Québec (in collaboration with Emmanuel Schwartz until 2012), and Au carré de l’hypoténuse in France. From 2007 to 2012, he joined in the National Art Centre as artistic director of the French Theatre.
Besides his work for the stage, Wajdi Mouawad has directed a feature-length film, Littoral, based on his play of the same name and his play Incendies (Scorched, performed at The Wilma Theater in 2009), adapted for film by Denis Villeneuve, and is an Academy Award Nominee for best foreign language film in 2010.
“Art bears witness to human existence through the prism of beauty.”
In recognition of his body of work and his contribution to the arts, the French government appointed Mouawad a Knight of the National Order of Arts and Letters in 2002. He is the recipient of numerous awards and honors for his writing and directing, including the 2000 Governor General’s Literary Award for Drama (for Littoral) and the 2004 Prix de la Francophonie awarded by the international Société des auteurs et compositeurs dramatiques (SACD) for his body of work. Organization Artists for Peace named him Artist for peace of the year 2006. In 2009, Mouawad was appointed for the Order of Canada, and the Académie française awarded him the Theatre Grand Prize for his accomplishments as a playwright. He also was the associated artist of the prestigious Avignon Festival in France for which he remounted Littoral (Tideline), Incendies (Scorched) and Forêt (Forest), and completed the quartet with the production of Ciels. That same year, he received a “Doctorat Honoris Causa” from École Normale Supérieure Lettres et Sciences humaines de Lyon. Recently, Wajdi Mouawad was awarded the Phénix award in Lebanon for his latest novel, Anima.
Wajdi Mouawad’s plays have been translated in more than twenty languages and presented in all parts of the world, including Great Britain, Germany, Italy, Spain, Japan, Mexico, Australia and the United States.
Wajdi Mouawad has presented his play Temps, in 2011. He is now devoted to staging Sophocles’ seven tragedies in three productions: Des femmes, which brings together Les Trachiniennes, Antigone, and Électre (2011); Des Héros, which includes Ajax un cabaret and Oedipe Roi (2014); the complete version entitled Le Dernier jour de sa vie was presented in the frame of Mons 2015, European Capital of Culture and then Des mourants freely adapted from Philoctetes and Oedipe à Colone which was presented at the Théâtre National de Chaillot in mai 2016.
He also conducted the project Avoir 20ans en 2015 (Being 20 in 2015) with 50 teenagers (from the cities of Mons, Namur, Nantes, the island of la Réunion and Montreal) who followed the company for five years and grew along the trips to Athens, Lyon, Auschwitz and Dakar. Recently, he led a workshop with the 3rd year students of the Conservatoire National Supérieur d’Art Dramatique in Paris and staged them in Défenestrations, presented in November in Paris. He continues his exchange with the young generation through collaborations with the Ecole Supérieure d’Art Dramatique in Paris, the University of Strasbourg and the MC93 in Bobigny.
With his newest cycle Domestique, he pursues his research around themes which are familiar to him, he created Seuls in 2008 and Soeurs in 2014, which are both still touring, and will soon, create Frères with Robert Lepage, followed by Père and Mère.
In April of 2016, Wajdi was appointed the head of La Colline - national theatre.
Biography of Wajdi Mouawad courtesy of Simard Agence Artistque and La Colline – national theatre. Photos of Wajdi Mouawad from Seuls: Chemin, texte et peintures by Wajdi Mouawad. Photos of Wajdi Mouawad in Seuls by Thibaut Baron.