Montreal playwright David Fennario, whose most famous work is the 1979 play. Balconville, He has died, according to his son. He was 76 years old.
Balconville was billed as a groundbreaking portrait of a group of working-class people living in the city’s Pointe-Saint-Charles neighborhood.
About a third of the dialogue was performed in French, making it the first bilingual play in Canadian theater history. The play premiered in 1979, a year before the first referendum on Quebec sovereignty.
His son, Tom Fennario, describes him as a proud Montrealer who had an even deeper connection to his neighborhood, Verdun.
“It was a little crazy. If you asked him where he’s from, he’d be like ‘Verdun, Pointe-Saint-Charles,'” Tom said, playfully imitating his father’s stern voice.
“It was exhausting at times listening to him talk about the history of Verdun and Pointe-Saint-Charles and how much he wanted to celebrate this place that he felt, as a writer on the rise, needed to be celebrated.”
Fennario was the first writer-in-residence at the Centaur Theatre, where Balconville debuted.
The playwright was known for his social activism. He famously picketed his own work in solidarity with the ushers who were on strike.
“That sums up the old man in a nutshell,” his son said.
In 2002, Fennario was diagnosed with Guillain-Barré syndrome, which attacks the nervous system.
In recent months his health had worsened, his son said, and his death was expected.
“We thought it wasn’t necessarily going to make it to July, but it came to September. That’s how my father was. He was tough,” his son said.
“He was occasionally infuriating. He had a huge presence. He took up a lot of space, but we all loved him. And we will miss him dearly.”
David Fennario passed away on Saturday in the hospital surrounded by his loved ones. He was 76 years old.