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By Michael Boriero – Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

The Théâtre des Petites Lanternes (TPL) announced its newest project, Monarques, which aims to unite the arts with the military and explore post-traumatic stress injuries and the marginalization of veterans and their families.

The project was presented to a small audience at the Centre des arts de la scene Jean-Besre Thursday afternoon with three minute-long performances from two dancers exploring the theme of PTSD and one cellist serenading the crowd.

According to Robert Groulx, the Eastern Townships Veterans' Committee president, it all started roughly three years ago when one of his members asked him to approach the TPL if they would be interested in exploring the complexities of coming back from war.

“We started having meetings almost every week, then it was every month and it’s been like that for three years,” he said after the presentation.

Starting in January 2021, the TPL and the project’s Steering Group will be begin to collect anonymous contributions known as Citizen Notebooks through a series of writing workshops. It starts in Quebec, eventually moving over to Ontario and the rest of Canada.

“They can write whatever they want, as much as they want and it’s private; nobody will know who wrote what,” Groulx said.

The artistic team will then read over all of the texts and condense them to create a unique theatre production, which they tentatively plan to premiere on November 8, 2022 at the Centre culturel de l'Université de Sherbrooke.

“Well you saw the two dancers, this is nothing compared to what you’re going to see on the theatrical scene,” said Groulx.

Monarques will be offered in both official languages, French and English. The project’s artistic director, Angèle Seguin, plans to give a voice to veterans, soldiers, their families and loved ones in an effort to de-stigmatize dialogue around PTSD.

The next phase, according to Seguin, will be to collect 800 testimonies. She decided to cap it at 800 because, as she explained after the presentation, if they ask for more, the stories all start to repeat themselves. She is willing to push it to 900, though.

“With 800 citizens on board we’re going to read about 5,000 to 6,000 pages,” Seguin explained.

She predicts the project will run more than $200,000. It’s a very big project, she said, and it depends how large the production becomes once they hit the road in 2022. Seguin noted that, at first, she was on the fence about the project.

But after getting support from several local organizations, including the Veterans’ Committee, she decided it was her duty to share these stories. Without the help from veterans in the area, she said, the project would not have come to life.

“When they asked us to realize this project, I wasn’t sure,” she said. “I have to decide where is the line between the war and between the human who suffers from PTSD.”

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