N.B.: The detail displayed about each honorary degree recipient varies, as
the database was compiled from a variety of sources. However, more information may
be available at the University Archives.
Convocation date: May 17, 1966
Discipline / contribution: drama - performance ; drama - playwright
Citation / biographical information:
Eminent Chancellor, on behalf of the University Council and Senate I present to you: Gratien Gelinas, Doctor of Literature, Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, Playwright, Producer, Actor, Director-General of the Comedie Canadienne.Degree received: Doctor of Laws
Mr. Gelinas was born near Three Rivers, in 1909, of French-Canadian and Scotch-Irish parentage. When he was still young his family moved to Montreal, where he received the noria1 Classical College education. Mr. Gelinas then spent nine years in the insurance business: fortunately he did not devote all his talents to his work, for during this period he indulged in casual radio and stage acting, developing his celebrated personage “Fridolin”. In 1938 on the stage of the ‘Monument National’ he produced the first of his annual Fridolinons reviews, which were to establish his reputation as author, director, actor and manager. In May of 1948 one of his most successful sketches led him to write his first dramatic work, “Ti-Coq”, which achieved enormous popularity, its more than 500 performances in French and English breaking all Canadian box-office records.
In 1957 Mr. Ge1inas gave an impressive performance in the role of Charles VI in the presentation of Henry V at the Stratford Festival. To illustrate his versatility and tremendous energy, in that same year he founded, as president and managing director, the Comedie Canadienne, which grew from a modest beginning to its present status of one of Canada’s most important professional theaters and where works of his own and other French-Canadian authors are staged.
More than a decade after Mr. Gelinas wrote “Ti-Coq” his second major work “Bousille and the Just” met with similar success on the stage in a score of Canadian cities, and on Canadian and British television.
To speak of popular success tells but part of the story: his work has been accorded great critical acclaim. Of his most recent play, “Yesterday, the Children were Dancing,” an English-speaking critic has said that it is the best Canadian play ever written. His writing has often been compared to that of Rabelais and Moliere. There is something very real, personal and human in his words, that reaches the hearts and involves the emotions of his audience: because he describes familiar scenes in vital language his plays, though deeply regional, are nevertheless completely universal.
Eminent Chancellor, I present to you Gratien Gelinas and ask that you confer on him the degree of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa.
Degree presented by: R.N.H. Haslam, Dean of Arts and Science
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