Comedian, Singer, Musician
Blanche de la Sablonnière
Blanche de la Sablonnière, christened "la Sarah Bernhardt canadienne" by poet Louis Fréchette, had a career that spanned thirty memorable years. Beloved by Montréal audiences, she was recognized as a comedic actor, a singer and a musician, playing both the piano and organ.
Born Angéline Lussier to Mr. and Mrs. Isidore Lussier of Saint-Hyacinthe, Quebec, Blanche de la Sablonnière's year of birth is estimated to be between 1855 and 1860. Performing was in her blood — her mother was an entertainer in the music-hall business and her niece, Yvonne Lussier (stage name, Fifi d'Orsay), was a famous Hollywood actress.
She made her debut at Montréal's L'Académie de musique with Les Artisans in Pierre Lenoir et les chauffeurs while in her late teens. Serious about becoming a theatre professional, she took courses, including diction, to improve her chances of landing coveted parts. She also adopted the stage name, Blanche de la Sablonnière.
In 1887, she made her professional debut with Louis Labelle and Mme. Larcher in Marie Jeanne ou la femme du peuple. During the next few years, she was a member of several French-language theatre groups in the Montréal area. She also toured across the province of Quebec and the northeastern United States.
In 1893 Tyrell and Bertram opened l'Empire, the first Montréal theatre devoted solely to French-language productions. The Troupe franco-canadienne, a groupe of eight comedians that included Blanche de la Sablonnière and Louis Labelle, often performed melodramas and comedies at this new venue. Unfortunately, after 49 shows, the troupe was dissolved at the end of the 1894 season.
The Théâtre des Variétés, founded by Antoine Godeau, Léon Petitjean, Palmieri (Joseph Archambault) and Jean-Paul Filion, opened its doors on November 21, 1898. Blanche was part of this troupe, which performed 289 shows of 42 different plays before closing in December 1899.
Shortly after, Julien Daoust founded the Théâtre National on Sainte-Catherine Street to promote French-Canadian talent. It became one of the most popular theatres in Montréal. Blanche de la Sablonnière was a well-known member of this ensemble for many seasons.
Some of her most memorable performances were in the plays Le Comte de Monte Cristo, Les Trois Mousquetaires, Carmen, Don César de Bazan, and Martyre.
Blanche de la Sablonnière married Joseph Tremblay, a theatre entrepreneur who owned the Nickel Theatre in Rivière-du-Loup and the Salle Jacques-Cartier in Québec City. Mr. Tremblay also founded a theatre group and named it in his wife's honour, "Théâtre de la Sablonnière." When the theatre business started struggling during the First World War years, Mr. Tremblay bought the Queen's Hotel in Québec City. It was at this point in her life that Blanche made the difficult decision to leave her successful theatre career and move to Québec City with her husband and son.
After entertaining audiences for three decades, Blanche de la Sablonniére took her final bow.
Greffard, Madeleine ; Sabourin, Jean-Guy. — Le théâtre québécois. — [Montréal] : Boréal, 1997. — P. 22-25
Hare, John E. — "Sablonnière, Blanche de la". — The Oxford companion to Canadian theatre. — Edited by Eugene Benson and L.W. Conolly. — Toronto : Oxford University Press, 1989. — P. 481-482
Larrue, Jean-Marc. — Le théâtre à Montréal à la fin du XIXe siècle. — Montréal : Fides, 1981. — P. 118-123
Prévost, Robert. — "Angéline Lussier-Tremblay - Blanche de la Sablonnière". — Québécoises d'hier et d'aujourd'hui : profils de 275 femmes hors du commun. — [Montréal] : Stanké, c1985. — P. 147
_____. — "Blanche de la Sablonnière, la 'Sarah Bernhardt canadienne'". — Que sont-ils devenus? — Montréal : Éditions Princeps, 1939. — P. 43-50
"Sablonnière, Blanche de la". — Encyclopedia of Canadian Theatre [online]. — [Cited June 18, 2003]. — Access : www.canadiantheatre.com/