Prof translates provocative play, ‘The Charge of the Expormidable Moose’

York English Professor Emeritus Ray Ellenwood is the brains behind the translation of The Charge of the Expormidable Moose, a provocative seven-person play opening May 10 in Toronto that is widely considered a masterpiece out of Montreal’s radical artistic movement, Les Automatistes.

Directed by One Little Goat Theatre Company’s Artistic Director Adam Seelig, RayEllenwooddThe Charge of the Expormidable Moose by Claude Gauvreau will run May 10 to 26 at the Tarragon Theatre Extra Space, 30 Bridgman Ave., Toronto.

Ray Ellenwood in front of Claude Gauvreau portrait by Milton Jewell. Photo by Brenda Ellenwood.

The play revolves around a poet who is envied and mocked by his fellow housemates (or are they fellow inmates?). Playful and surreal, yet deeply rooted in powerful experiences, the play combines the absurd with the cruel to create an exceptional drama.

In 1991, Ellenwood, who taught in the graduate program in English at York, published Egregore: A History of the Montréal Automatist Movement about the movement that was active in Montreal during and after the Second Word War. His book-length translations include the 1948 Automatist manifesto, Refus Global, a landmark in Canadian culture, and two volumes of work by Gauvreau. This year marks the 65th anniversary of Refus MooseGlobal of which Gauvreau (1925-1971) was one of the original contributors as part of the collective of painters, dancers and other artists. Ellenwood has also published articles in French and English on Claude Gauvreau, as well as the painter Pierre Gauvreau and other figures of importance to the movement.

Considered a giant of Quebec theatre (Le Devoir), as well as revolutionary, Claude Gauvreau was a visionary poet-playwright who developed an innovative language he called “explorean”, testing the very limits of lyricism. His work is admired by such renowned artists as director Robert Lepage and performance poets The Four Horsemen, yet his name is little known outside his native province.

Gauvreau ended his life in 1971, overwhelmed by the suicide of his love and muse, performer Muriel Guilbault, and after years of psychiatric treatment.

The Charge of the Expormidable Moose will feature Hume Baugh (The Girl in the Picture Tries to Hang Up the Phone) as Letasse Cromagnon; David Christo  (The Godot Cycle/ 2011 Toronto Fringe Festival) as Lontil-Déparey; Lindsey Clark (King Lear/ Harbourfront 2013) as Laura Pa; Sochi Fried (Engaged/ 2013 Rhubarb Festival) as Dydrame Daduve; bilingual actor Lindsay Owen Pierre (We Will Rock You) as Becket-Bobo; and Jessica Salgueiro (One Little Goat’s Like the First Time) as Marie-Jeanne Commode. Ben Irvine, who won plaudits in Tarragon Theatre’s 2012 production No Great Mischief will play Mycroft Mixeudeim, the play’s eponymous “Moose”.

The design team boasts more than a dozen Dora Awards and nominations collectively: Jackie Chau, sets and costumes; Laird MacDonald, lighting; and Thomas Ryder Payne, sound.

Opening Friday, May 10, The Charge of the Expormidable Moose will be performed Tuesdays to Saturdays at 8pm, and Sundays at 2:30pm. Tickets are $25; $20 for students, seniors and artists; and $28/$23 in the final week; rush tickets Sundays and Fridays, $13. Info and tickets are available from the Tarragon box office at 416-531-1827 or by visiting the  One Little Goat website.