Canadian theatre/theater icon, who has moved from artistic practice to arts administration in his dotage. He forayed briefly into the ceremonial side of politics but was nailed by an old scandal and forced from office.

Drama career

Roux was born in Montreal in 1923 and abandoned a medical education to follow his love for drama by studying in France. After he returned to Montreal in 1950, he co-founded two important theatre companies, the Théâtre d'Essai de Montréal and the vastly more important Théâtre du Nouveau Monde. He performed and directed at TNM until 1982, and was its artistic director from 1966.

TNM is renowned for ground-breaking productions in Montreal, most of them produced under Roux's vision. Primarily, TNM is known for for having an iron grasp on how to do classical theatre (like Shakespeare and Molière) well while being willing to take chances on productions that could only work in a place like Montreal -- such as bilingual shows in French and English. Quebec went through a cultural sea-change through the 1960s and 1970s, from being Church-bound and backward-looking to secular and forward-looking (for more on this see Quiet Revolution), and Théâtre du Nouveau-Monde was at the forefront.

In 1982, Roux left TNM to head the Canadian National Theatre School in Montreal; in 1987 he returned to performing and directing, including playing in Shakespeare at the Stratford Festival. He also translated several English plays, both classical and modern (from King Lear to Equus), into French.

Political career

Roux's bearing is perfectly classical; think of a sort of Québécois Laurence Olivier. He seemed like a perfect appointee to the Canadian Senate in 1994, then to the lieutenant-governor's office in Quebec in 1996.

In Canada, a lieutenant-governor's job is to represent the British monarch in one of the provinces. Roux's job was to sign government bills, cut ribbons, give speeches, and look dignified.

He was doing just fine until he acknowledged in a television interview that he'd had fascist sympathies in the 1930s and 1940s. He'd worn a swastika on his lab coat as a pre-med student, and had marched in an anti-conscription demonstration that had gone bad and turned into an anti-Jewish rally.

None of that was at all unusual in Quebec in that period. The province was ultra-religious and defensively nationalist in the 1930s; fascist sympathies were common. Canada was almost torn apart by a conscription crisis in the First World War, when francophone Quebecers resisted being drafted to fight in a British Empire war, and the crisis echoed in the Second World War. Roux described it as a dark period and said he was ashamed of having participated.

But the furor over Roux's past didn't abate -- someone even turned up an old photo of Roux in the crowd at the rally, bellowing something with his fist in the air. He resigned the lieutenant-governorship.

What he's up to now

In 1998, Roux was appointed chairman of the Canada Council, a federal body that doles out arts grants and runs award programs. He also still performs from time to time in plays in Ottawa and Montreal.