Road tour pioneer
“J’ai traversé la Côte Nord, Je me suis fait brasser le corps Sur le bateau Marco-Polo, Comme une patate dans un sabot. ” From “La Côte-Nord” (The North Shore), recorded on July 8, 1931 Madame Bolduc, dressed as a ship’s captain, and Simone de Varennes pose on the Marco Polo, the Matane – Sept-Îles ferry, in July 1931. Sept-Îles would be the last stop on her first true road show in Québec, an initiation. Invited by actor Juliette d’Argère, she joined her burlesque troupe as its main star. From Hull to Sept-Îles, the troupe would perform for three months in theatres, parish halls or the basements of Catholic churches.
Suffering from the repercussions of the economic crisis, Madame Bolduc joined forces with Henri Rollin to organise a first series of road shows in New England from April to June 1934. Her husband Édouard and her daughter Denise were part of the troupe. Maine, Massachusetts and New Hampshire… the halls were filled to standing room only! Franco-Americans loved the folk music show. Tremendously popular, the Bolduc troupe returned to New England the next fall as well as in 1937 and 1939.
The road show tours lasted as long as two months, without the performers returning home. While on the road, Madame Bolduc would rent a car or borrow her husband’s. She and the other performers would travel by car. As for their personal luggage and the material they needed to put on the shows, they were hauled in a trailer hooked up behind the car. Like the photo below, a few of the photos in the souvenir album put together by her daughter Fernande and donated to the Musée de la Gaspésie show the smiling performers posed around or sitting on their suitcases.
In the summer of 1940, Madame Édouard Bolduc took her final road show, performing her swan song around Québec. Knowing that she was suffering from incurable cancer, she accepted to accompany Rose Ouellette, known as La Poune, and her National Theatre troupe to the Abitibi. This photo shows the two stars in Rouyn, on June 24, 1940, near the poster announcing their return to the stage.
The troupe took everything they needed with them to be able to print lyrics booklets, programs or promotional posters. The plate shown above was used to print at least three booklets of Madame Bolduc’s songs, including Gaspésienne pure laine, recorded on March 6, 1935. As for the set of 157 loose type letters in the case below, they were used to reproduce lettering or to correct or recycle posters.
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