A Letter for Elena Audience Age Range : 7 and older / In Theater
Somewhere in the countryside, on a summer morning, Frank, Lucy, and Aïcha were playing, just like every other day since school had ended. They encountered a squirrel’s nest, a pond, a tree trunk which they reimagined as a racer, a rock, strawberries, some hay, a ditch, a road…
On the side of that road, they found a multitude of objects and letters left there just for them. They rummaged through and found messages from everyone, except Elena, their best friend and the fourth of the gang. She remained in silence for a reason they could not explain themselves. There had to be a letter from her, and the children needed to find it !
Throughout their research, Frank, Lucy, and Aïcha reveal to us, step by step, the words of a whole town saying goodbye : those of a little brother not yet born, with so many questions in his mind, those of a grandfather who’s already in heaven waiting for them, the secret words we love to read again and again, the words that protest, the glowing neon words that are filled with love… And slowly, they clear up some space.
At the crossroads of theater and dance, A Letter for Elena is a play unfolding itself like a treasure hunt, where the path of mourning is slowly drawn, and words take form to say goodbye.
A Quebec-France co-production : Le Petit Théâtre de Sherbrooke and La [parenthèse] / Christophe Garcia
Published by Lansman Editeur
Watch video excerpt
Author / Director
Choreographer / Director
Ariane Bisson McLernon, based on F. Schubert
Sara Harton, Merryn Kritzinger and Nina-Morgane Madelaine
Photos and videos
Jean Charles Verchère
Le Petit Théâtre de Sherbrooke
The mission of Le Petit Théâtre de Sherbrooke is to develop the practice and attendance of theatre in children and youth by placing words and dramatic art at the heart of research and by offering multidisciplinary teams the creative environment that allows them to experiment with the musical, visual and physical languages.
A theatre that defies convention, always looking for new ways to tell a story and make it blossom and to grab young audiences’ attention by playing with the codes of performance, inviting them to visit a universe that ignites imagination. A theatre that allows for greater freedom of interpretation, giving young audiences’ sensibilities and intelligence a different perspective and trusting their ability to discover new versions of a story. A theatre that cares about showcasing the talent of local artists while establishing new collaborations with companies from abroad, thus multiplying exchange opportunities between creators from different artistic scopes and disciplines.
In 47 years of artistic activity, Le Petit Théâtre de Sherbrooke has created more than 90 plays presented in Québec, Canada, United States, France, Scotland, Belgium, Switzerland and South America.
La [parenthèse] / Christophe Garcia
The dance company La [parenthèse] / Christophe Garcia was founded in 2000 with the desire to tell stories and reveal people through dance, music and text. From the very beginning, its founder was driven by the desire to build bridges between the arts, generations and continents.
Each show offers a unique universe : small intimate shapes alongside ambitious shows. The poetry and dynamism of the artists impart a common tone to all productions.
Since its inception, La [parenthèse] / Christophe Garcia has presented more than 25 creations that have made their mark in France and around the world. The company continues to project itself in creations on different scales, which always remain unifying, joyful and human.
Artistic director – Le Petit Théâtre de Sherbrooke
Author and director – A Letter for Elena
Trained as an actor at l’École de théâtre du Cégep de Saint-Hyacinthe, Erika Tremblay-Roy is an author, director and actress, and is particularly inspired by children and youth theatre. Among other plays, she wrote Tante T and Autopsie d’une napkin, a text for which she received the Louise-LaHaye Award in 2012. For her play Petite vérité inventée, created by Théâtre Bouches Décousues in 2013, she is nominated as a finalist for the Governor General’s Literary Awards, given by the Canada Council for the Arts. For Lettre pour Éléna, a co-production from Le Petit Théâtre de Sherbrooke and French dance company La [parenthèse] / Christophe Garcia, she is awarded the following prizes : Prix LOJIQ : Francophonie and CALQ : OEuvre de l’année for the Eastern Townships. She has been Le Petit Théâtre de Sherbrooke’s artistic director for the last 8 years.
Artistic director – La [parenthèse] / Christophe Garcia
Choreographer and director – A Letter for Elena
Trained as a dancer and initiated to theatre, singing and music, Christophe very quickly gravitated towards choreography. First admitted at l’École-Atelier Rudra-Béjart in Switzerland, he joins Béjart Ballet Lausanne. Between France and Canada, he collaborates with several artistic figures and international organizations, like Robert Lepage and Ex Machina, Robert Wilson and Les Grands Ballets Canadiens. Winner of several international choreography awards, he is noticed by his work during European and North-American events. Christophe is invited to work and create for repertory companies: Scapino Ballet Rotterdam, Opéra-théâtre d’Avignon, Ballet d’Europe, Dantzaz Compania, Jeune Ballet du Québec and Jeune Ballet de France. Founder and artistic director for the La [parenthèse] / Christophe Garcia company, based in Angers, France, this is his third collaboration with Le Petit Théâtre de Sherbrooke.
Themes explored in the play
Losing a loved one
As adults, we always want to protect children from what is heavy and sad. We can shelter them from problems that don’t concern them, but death represents an existential question that they need to talk about.
In A Letter for Elena, the feeling of loss and absence are brought up, allowing children who are ready to contemplate these questions to initiate a dialogue with the adults around them. Without shying away from emotions like sadness and anger, we chose to offer a luminous aspect of this stage of life. In the end, members of the audience, young and old, are witnessing a celebration of the characters’ friendship, an emotional play that expresses an exuberant thirst for life. The play was created so that the artistic experience can lead those who need it to have a conversation with their loved ones to better understand this important part of life and express their emotions, without dictating answers nor rushing those who haven’t really thought about it.
For a lot of children and adults that see the play, friendship is a more prominent subject matter than death in A Letter for Elena. The strength of the bond between Frank, Lucy, Aisha and Elena, which reveals itself throughout the play, refers the audience to their own experiences and allows them to think about the importance of friendship in a lifetime journey.
Another crucial aspect of the play is the pile of letters written by the townspeople, which will be read by the characters throughout the story. From all these words loaded with affection, emerges the central theme of friendship, but also maternal and fraternal love, forgiveness and resilience. The poetic form and the contribution of dancing allow the audience to go from one emotion to the other, without dictating the path to follow.
A study guide is available. It explores the creative process of the two directors ; introduces philosophy as a tool to help children to question and exchange extensively with their classmates ; explores the concepts of death, growing up friendship by reminding teachers that children see concepts differently than adults.
Two preparatory workshops are available before the performance : 30 minutes preparation on the concept of Loss and Friendship (explained in the section Themes explored in the play) and one hour workshop based on the dancing movements explored in the play.
Finally, the company is also open to creating other tools with presenters in order to maximize the school audience experience.
« A subtle and sensitive proposition carried by three amazing dancers/actresses. Such a fusion between acting and dancing is a rare treat, with a choreography that is both gentle and deep and translates the steps of sadness, the haven of memories and the roads to accepting the incomprehensible. »L’Alsace.fr – 3 february 2018
« The stage direction is subtle and never veers into emotionalism; the images conjured by dancing and the ideas set forth by the direction bring lightness and hope to a play about resilience. »Tiphaine Le RoyLa Scène – May 2016
« A sensitive and delicate youth theater creation on the subject of mourning. Every recess of the landscape skillfully recreated in an epistolary treasure hunt is traversed by the three young dancers, who double as actresses to reveal the path to the truth, which is sometimes difficult to accept… Seen through their eyes, the taboo of announcing a passing is quietly removed, all while celebrating friendship … stronger than death. »Delphine MichelangeliJournalzibeline.fr – July 2016
« With A Letter for Elena, you will witness a piece with true contemporary flair. It falls within the very best of today’s creation and will delight every audience. This inspired performance will spark in you an unbridled zest for life. »Alain GrégoireGeneral manager of La Maison Théâtre, Montreal (Canada)