A Bed, a Breakup, a Warehouse, a Play

’90s Gen-Xers Overlap With Today’s Young Adults in Ludwig & Mae

Ludwig & Mae at Les Ateliers Jean-Brillant from March 28 to April 7. Photos Brandon Johnston

It worked in Berlin and Santiago, but are Montreal audiences ready for a grunge-era play trilogy about 20-somethings trying to figure out life?

An ambitious young theatre company made up of Dawson College graduates will find out next week when they transform a warehouse into a working theatre and bring Ludwig & Mae by Montreal-based playwright Louis Patrick Leroux back home.

Leroux, currently a playwriting professor at Concordia, wrote the plays during the ’90s when he was a 20-something trying to work through the apathy that he felt consumed his generation.

The young Gen X-ers were overeducated and underemployed—a theme that he feels is resonating all over again. Baby boomers were acting like they’d done it all and weren’t taking their kids seriously.

“I thought it was very strange that one generation would control both authority and protest,” Leroux said. “People that had been there for free love and communes had become the most bourgeois in recent history. They wanted to be cool and ‘with it’ and protest-driven, but at the same time they wanted the money and the privilege.”

Meanwhile, 20-somethings had McJobs and a society that left them behind. He said that the need for independence and change is cropping up in this generation and can be seen through social shakedowns like the student protests of last year’s Maple Spring.

Ludwig & Mae was written with Nirvana on the radio, Tarantino in theatres and nudity on the stage. He said the plays developed along those lines.

In the first play of the series, two 20-somethings decide that they need to break up.

“Tomorrow morning. After breakfast,” Leroux said. “So they spend the entire weekend not having breakfast, not leaving bed. Basically, not splitting up.” 

The second play features the titular male character, Ludwig, preparing his suicide. In the third, Mae is coming to terms with what’s happened.

The theatre company producing the play, Title 66, liked that the story came full-circle. The director, Logan Williams, had picked up the play at a used bookstore during a break from his day job and got sucked in.

“Everything that was being said by the characters was something I’ve said or friends have said,” Williams said.

But how close the characters came to the lives of the seven young actors meant that producing it was sometimes uncomfortable.

“The text deals with such relatable stuff that when you get up to do it you think, ‘I don’t necessarily want to go to that dark place,’” Williams said.

Title 66 contacted Leroux, a seasoned theatre director, to get the rights to the plays. Since then, there have been conversations over how to approach the production, but Leroux said that despite the urge to want to help the young artists, he’s conscious that this is their project and they need to make it their own.

“If I were to butt in I would just be working against the message of the plays, which was, ‘Give us some space,’” said Leroux. “In society, the older generation can’t constantly be saying, ‘We’ve done that, yeah, yeah, that’s so cute.’ There’s something absolutely dreadful about not giving 20-somethings space to live, to be.”

“In society, the older generation can’t constantly be saying, ‘We’ve done that, yeah, yeah, that’s so cute.’ There’s something absolutely dreadful about not giving 20-somethings space to live, to be.” — Ludwig & Mae Playwright Louis Patrick Leroux

Although members of Title 66 can work in established theatre companies, the safety of it isn’t necessarily appealing to them, said Williams.

“When you’re young you might as well take it by the horns and experiment,” he said.

Part of that creative experimentation comes from the design they’ve put into the costumes and part of it from the space they are staging the show in, Les Ateliers Jean-Brillant.

The Saint-Henri warehouse doesn’t have tech equipment or any traditional theatre furnishings. Williams called the space “a big concrete slab, a young person’s dream.”

This is Title 66’s third production since they graduated from Dawson in 2011. Williams said their first show “defied the odds” within the Montreal indie theatre community—and actually turned a profit, which encouraged them to keep going.

With Ludwig & Mae, the young company has found a play that fits their mantra. Title 66 is named after Shakespeare’s Sonnet 66, which describes art being “tongue-tied by authority.” And neither Leroux’s Generation X nor today’s 20-somethings have any interest in that.

Ludwig & Mae / Les Ateliers Jean-Brillant (661 Rose de Lima St.) / March 28 to March 30 and April 2 to April 6 / 8:00 p.m. / Matinee Shows: March 30, April 6 and April 7 / 12:00 p.m / $15.00.

For more info check out title66.com

Preview Show / March 27 / 7:00 p.m. / $5.00