The words “Man of the theatre”1 are engraved on the tombstone of Léonard Beaulne, buried in Ottawa’s Notre-Dame cemetery. There is no better epitaph to describe him. Despite being very good at sports, especially rugby, his true passion is the theatre. During his lifetime, Beaulne holds almost all possible positions in the performing arts: actor, director, artistic director, and diction and drama teacher.
Born on August 8, 1887 in Sainte-Scholastique, Quebec, Léonard Beaulne completes the commercial program at the University of Ottawa High School – the beginning of a long history between Beaulne and the institution. In 1919, he becomes the artistic director of the University of Ottawa’s Société des débats français, ancestor of the Comédie des deux rives, where he facilitates speaking competitions and directs annual shows. Beaulne obtains this position thanks to his solid reputation as one of the brightest stars in the region’s drama community.
Even though he works as a civil servant in the Department of National Defence, Beaulne never abandons the theatre. He performs with several theatre companies and founds others, such as the Cercle dramatique Crémazie, which he sets in motion with Hector Laperrière and Eugène Côté in 1905.
His son, Guy Beaulne, remembers his father’s theatrical talents in these words: “With disconcerting ease, he establishes a complicit rapport with the room. He has the gift of presence. His art is based on careful observation of human behaviour and on spontaneous and frank expression of the feelings that need to be tackled.”2 In the few images of Léonard Beaulne that have reached us, we see an expressive actor who is passionate about performing.
Léonard Beaulne dies in Ottawa on October 10, 1947, but not without first passing his passion on to his descendants. His son, Guy Beaulne, and his granddaughter, Martine Beaulne, walk in his footsteps as they both pursue careers in the world of theatre. The Studio Léonard-Beaulne, located on Séraphin-Marion Street, on the University of Ottawa campus, pays tribute to him.