Théâtre de l’Œil came to life in Montreal in 1973, driven by the vision of André Laliberté and Francine Saint–Aubin, quickly joined by Jocelyn Desjarlais, another seasoned puppeteer. The passion of these three puppetry artists had its roots in Les Marionnettes de Montréal, under the direction of Micheline Legendre. In 1975, following Francine’s departure, André discovered Pierre Tremblay, whom he trained in puppetry techniques. Pierre would later join André and Jocelyn to form an artistic trio that led the company for nearly 10 years. After the departure of Jocelyn and Pierre, André Laliberté continued exceptionally until 2020, accumulating 47 years of artistic direction and overseeing 28 productions. In 2020, Simon Boudreault took the reins of the company, having contributed as a puppeteer, author, and director within Théâtre de l’Œil.
From its inception, Théâtre de l’Œil was passionate about various puppetry techniques, including rod puppets, shadow theater, masks, and particularly the bunraku technique. Placing puppetry at the heart of visual theater, the company conducted in-depth research, giving rise to productions acclaimed by both the public and industry professionals. In the early 80s, Théâtre de l’Œil played a key role in the creation of the Association québécoise des marionnettistes (AQM). In 1983, the company was selected to represent Canada in China with its play Regarde pour voir, marking a major milestone as the first tour of a Canadian production in China after the cultural revolution. In the same year, Théâtre de l’Œil continued its role as a builder by becoming one of the founding companies of Maison Théâtre in Montreal.
In the following years, the company shone internationally. Ongoing commitment to research and development of innovative techniques and scenic elements resulted in visually stunning works, such as Le Porteur (1997), a visual poem without words. This show has been performed over 800 times worldwide over the following two decades.
Théâtre de l’Œil has always sought to renew the universes it explores by collaborating with various authors and contributors. Michel Tremblay, Marie-Louise Gay, Michelle Allen, Louise Bombardier, Larry Tremblay, and others have written original texts for the company. Directors like Martine Beaulne, Olivier Reichenbach, Simon Boudreault, Catherine Vidal, Olivier Kemeid, and composers like Libert Subirana (from the Harmonium group), Silvy Grenier, Michel F. Côté, along with many other designers, including visual artist Richard Morin and set designer Richard Lacroix, have contributed to creating the company’s productions, with some becoming regular collaborators. In 2023, author Fanny Britt and singer-songwriter Ariane Moffatt joined the Théâtre de l’Œil’s family to create 176 pas.
As a touring company, Théâtre de l’Œil has now created 31 productions and has widely presented its shows in Quebec, Canada, and around the world. Tours have been conducted in the United States, including the prestigious Kennedy Center in Washington and the New Victory Theater in New York, as well as in Japan, South Korea, Switzerland, Mexico, Germany, England, Spain, Ireland, the Netherlands, Denmark, and China. Now internationally recognized, the company is proud to promote Quebec excellence abroad.