Andrée Lachapelle is as vital to Québec theatre, television and film as the sun and water are to flowers.
Her mother lost her husband while she was pregnant with her fifth child. She raised her five children alone for a few years and then was married again, to her late husband's first cousin. This union produced two more children, the last of which, little Andrée, was born on November 13, 1931. Her parents were 45 years old at the time.
During their childhood, Andrée's brothers and sisters used to put on amateur plays during their spare time. Her brothers and sisters gave her lines to recite from the time she could speak. Later, she would recite poems during the intermissions. Her home atmosphere and family environment were such that she discovered a definite taste for the theatre at a very young age.
Andrée Lachapelle began taking diction lessons at the age of six. Throughout her studies, she had a passion for the French language and was always careful to express herself clearly. At school, she was frequently chosen to play the role of the Virgin Mary, angels, saints or Jesus. She was a docile student with a bashful giggle, and was always ranked among the top in her class. At 14, she enrolled in Studio 15, under the direction of Gérard Vleminckx. Being too young to play roles, she was accepted as a student.
She attended teachers' college where she obtained her diploma as an elementary school teacher. She taught kindergarten for two years and grade 1 for six months at the École du doux parler français, after which she devoted herself entirely to the theatre.
Andrée set foot on stage with the Trait d'union troupe at the side of Henri Norbert and later with the Compagnons de Saint-Laurent, directed by Aario Marist.
In the summer of 1952, at the Montréal Festival, Andrée met Robert Gadouas, a professional actor recognized for his sensitivity, innate sense of theatre, acting intensity and talents as a reader and monologist. The advent of television in the autumn of 1952 led Andrée to perform in a personal adaptation by Robert Gadouas of a "pièce noire" by Jean Anouilh: L'Hermine. Robert Gadouas interpreted the role of the suitor, Frantz, while Andrée portrayed his sweetheart, Monime. This marked the beginning of their off-stage relationship.
Her relationship with Robert Gadouas lasted 10 years and they had four children: Patrice, Catherine, Anne (stillborn) and Nathalie.
In 1963 the couple separated. Robert Gadouas took his own life in 1969. Commenting on his death and its effect on her, Andrée Lachapelle remarks that:
[...] Le métier d'acteur peut s'avérer très cruel pour ceux qui, trop sensibles, en font leur unique raison de vivre. Robert Gadouas faisait partie de cette lignée. C'était un être plein de fantaisies et de rêves, au point que cela le rendait très vulnérable, car ses rêves et fantaisies étaient trop débordants pour entrer dans l'espace quand même limité du milieu théâtral. L'intolérance à l'égard de certains artistes, même les plus doués, trouve malheureusement sa place dans ce milieu et c'est dans un silence complice que leurs faiblesses sont souvent pointées du doigt. [...] Avant sa disparition fracassante, Robert n'avait presque plus d'engagements. Pour des raisons que j'ignore toujours, le milieu théâtral le boudait comme s'il ne se souvenait plus de lui. [...] Ce fut une épreuve douloureuse qui m'a ouvert les yeux. À compter de ce moment, j'ai décidé que, pour le reste de ma vie, je ne me laisserai jamais détruire par ce métier, que j'aime par-dessus tout; au contraire, j'ai voulu faire tout ce qui était en mon pouvoir pour qu'il demeure ma principale source d'enrichissement personnel et de joie de vivre.
Marcel Dubé, p. 92
[...] The actor's craft can prove to be very cruel for those who, being too sensitive, make it their only reason to live. Robert Gadouas was like that. He was full of imagination and dreams, to the point that it made him very vulnerable, because his dreams and fantasies were too boundless to fit into the limited space of the theatre. The intolerance toward certain artists, even the most talented, unfortunately finds its place in this environment and their weaknesses are often pointed out in a conspiracy of silence. [...] Before his shattering death, Robert had almost no theatrical engagements. For reasons that I still do not know, the theatre community snubbed him as if they no longer remembered him. [...] That painful ordeal opened my eyes. From that moment on, I decided that I would never in my life let myself be destroyed by this craft, which I love more than anything; to the contrary, I wanted to do everything in my power to keep it as my main source of personal enrichment and joie de vivre.
On May 29, 1971 she married actor Dominique Briand. Her relationship with him began in 1967 and lasted 10 years. It was on Dominique's insistence that Andrée secured the role of Blanche Dubois in the play Un tramway nommé Désir by Tennessee Williams. This play, which was staged in Paris, was hugely successful in France.
As a Canada Council for the Arts bursary recipient, she undertook, alone, a long trip which led her to Russia, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Austria, Paris and New York. She took dramatic arts courses in order to learn the various teaching methods used in acting schools. This experience proved to be very useful in 1998, she became a professor of reading at the National Theatre School in Montréal.
Upon her return to the country, Andrée was at a crossroads. Her children were on their own: Nathalie aspired to dance and became an actor like her mother; Catherine was a musician and Patrice, a ship's captain. Andrée and Dominique were no longer getting along. With diverging opinions on their respective careers, they separated but remained good friends.
In 1978, Andrée Lachapelle had a brief relationship with Daniel Desjardins, a technician at Place des Arts.
For about the last five years she has shared her life with the filmmaker André Melançon. They are spokespersons for the Carrefour familial Hochelaga, a community agency that helps families in need.
Throughout her impressive career in theatre, Andrée Lachapelle has continued to make her mark. She has appeared in numerous plays, including:
Chekhov's L'Ours et la Demande en mariage, Studio 15
Crime et Châtiment, directed by Aario Marist, Compagnons de Saint-Laurent
Ces dames aux chapeaux verts, directed by Henri Norbert, Trait d'union
Somerset Maugham's Adorable Julia, directed by Loïc Le Gouriadec (1960)
François Campaux's Des enfants de cœur, directed by Loïc Le Gouriadec, Théâtre du Rideau vert (1964)
Goldoni's La Locandiera, directed by Gilles Groulx, Nouvelle Compagnie théâtrale (1965)
Marcel Dubé's Les Beaux Dimanches, Comédie canadienne (1965)
Marcel Dubé's Au retour des oies blanches, directed by Gilles Groulx, Comédie canadienne
Huis clos, directed by Paul Blouin, Théâtre du Rideau vert (1967)
Françoise Sagan's Le Cheval évanoui, directed by François Cartier, Théâtre du Rideau vert (1968)
Georges Feydeau's La Dame de chez Maxim's, directed by Guy Hoffmann, Théâtre du Rideau vert (1970)
Feu la mère de Madame, directed by André Cailloux, Théâtre du Rideau vert (1971)
William Douglas Home's Le Canard à l'orange, directed by Guy Hoffmann, Théâtre du Rideau vert (1971)
Les Troyennes, Nouvelle Compagnie théâtrale (1971)
Ibsen's Une maison de poupée, Nouvelle Compagnie théâtrale (1973)
Tennessee Williams' Un tramway nommé Désir, Paris (1975)
George Bernard Shaw's Candida, directed by Hubert Noël, Théâtre du Rideau vert (1978)
Henri Becque's La Parisienne, directed by Jean-Louis Roux, Théâtre du Nouveau Monde (1978)
Jovette Marchessault's La Saga des poules mouillées, directed by Michelle Rossignol, Théâtre du Nouveau Monde (1981)
Jovette Marchessault, Anaïs dans la queue de la comète, directed by Michèle Magny, Théâtre de Quat'Sous (1985)
Jean Genet's Les Paravents, directed by André Brassard, Théâtre du Nouveau Monde (1987)
Chekhov's La Cerisaie, directed by Guillermo de Andrea, Théâtre du Rideau vert et Théâtre du Trident (1988)
Michel d'Astous's Les Dernières Fougères, directed by André Brassard, Théâtre du Rideau vert (1989)
A.R. Gurney's Lettres d'amour, directed by Michèle Magny, Théâtre du Rideau vert (1991)
Arthur Miller's Après la chute, directed by Yves Desgagnés, Compagnie Jean-Duceppe (1994)
Tennessee Williams' Soudain l'été dernier, directed by René Richard Cyr, Compagnie Jean-Duceppe (1995)
Normand Chaurette's Le Passage de l'Indiana, directed by Denis Marleau, Théâtre UBU/CNA (1996)
Sébastien Harrisson's Titanica, la robe des grands combats, Edmund C. Asher, Londres, 1968, directed by René Richard Cyr, Théâtre d'Aujourd'hui (2001)
José Maria Arguedas' Les Fleuves profonds, directed by José Navas, Théâtre de Quat'Sous (2002)
Clémence Desrochers's Les girls arrivent en ville, directed by Sophie Clément, Théâtre du Rideau vert (2002)
Theatre director André Brassard summarizes Andrée Lachapelle's wonderful personality: "Andrée Lachapelle est un cadeau du Bon Dieu à l'humanité souffrante. Elle est aussi belle en dedans qu'en dehors. Elle fait partie de cette race de gens qui pourraient s'asseoir sur leurs lauriers. Mais elle est encore inquiète, passionnée. [...]" (Véronique Robert, p. 250). [translation: "Andrée Lachapelle is a gift from God to suffering humanity. She is as beautiful on the inside as she is on the outside. She belongs to a group of people that could rest on their laurels. But she is still concerned, passionate."]
1980 to 1988 President of the Galerie Maximum, which promotes the dissemination of prisoners' artwork
1985 Named as an Officer of the Order of Canada. This honour was bestowed on her by the Rt. Hon. Jeanne Sauvé as a tribute to her outstanding talents as an actress as well as her commitment to the service of Canada and humanity
Since 1985 Involved in auditions of the Théâtre de Quat'Sous
Since 1989 Member of the fundraising committee of Amnesty International
1993 First president of the Conseil québécois du théâtre and ambassador of Quebec couturiers
1994 Involved in organizing the first Gala du Théâtre televised by the Société Radio-Canada (the Soirée des Masques)
1998 Named Chevalier by the Secrétariat de l'Ordre national du Québec
2000 Recipient of the "Mérite du français dans la culture" award. This award is given each year to a public figure with a career in acting, design or writing, whose use of the French language is of a quality that is acknowledged by the general public. This award is given by the Union des artistes, the Union des écrivaines et des écrivains québecois (UNEQ) and the Société des auteurs de radio, télévision et cinéma (SARTEC), in collaboration with the Office de la langue française.
Alonzo, Anne-Marie. "Mon tête-à-tête avec Andrée". La vie en rose. No 30 (octobre 1985). P. 44-46
Arbique, Louise. Le Théâtre du Rideau vert : 50 ans à célébrer le théâtre, 1949-1999. Montréal : Leméac, 1999. 203 p.
Doucet, Sophie. "Andrée Lachapelle : belle dedans comme dehors". Femme plus. Vol. 13, no 3 (avril 2000). P. 84-85
Dubé, Marcel. Andrée Lachapelle : entre ciel et terre. Montréal : Éditions Mnémosyne, 1995. 117 p.
Dupont, Sylvie. "Scènes de la vie maternelle en vue". Elle Québec. No 79 (mars 1996). P. 30-31
Gauthier, Jean-Louis. "André Lachapelle : 'Jouer, c'est retrouver l'état d'enfance'". Châtelaine. Vol. 23, no 11 (novembre 1982). P. 74-80
Governor General of Canada. Officer of the Order of Canada : Andrée Lachapelle, O.C. [online]. [Cited September 9, 2003]. Access : www.gg.ca/honours/nat-ord/oc/index_e.asp
Laurendeau, Francine. "Un don et un abandon : entretien avec [la comédienne et actrice] Andrée Lachapelle". Jeu. No 88 (septembre 1998). P. 68-72
Laurin, Danielle. "Qu'avons-nous appris des hommes? ". Elle Québec. No 80 (avril 1996). P. 81-86
Lévesque, Solange. "Un rêve d'enfance : entretien avec Andrée Lachapelle". Jeu. No 89 (décembre 1998). P. 141-156
Millot, Pascale. "La vie, l'amour, la gloire selon Andrée Lachapelle, Louise Portal et Marie-Chantal Perron". Châtelaine. Vol. 38, no 10 (octobre 1997). P. 39-48
Robert, Véronique. "[Andrée Lachapelle] : drôle d'ange". L'actualité. Vol. 13, no 11 (novembre 1988). P. 246-252
Roy, Monique. "Chirurgie esthétique : deux points de vue s'affrontent". Châtelaine. Vol. 38, no 5 (mai 1997). P. 66-73
Secrétariat de l'Ordre national du Québec. Andrée Lachapelle (Chevalier 1998) [online]. [Cited September 9, 2003]. Access : www.cex.gouv.qc.ca/g/html/onq/98/98_22.htm
Wera, Françoise. "Entretien avec Andrée Lachapelle". Ciné bulles. Vol. 10, no 3 (avril-mai 1991). P. 4-6