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In 1976, a group of puppeteers and actors from the Université du Québec à Montréal and the theatre program at the Cégep de Saint-Hyacinthe – sharing an interest in puppetry and the exploration of a theatrical language specific to this medium – founded Théâtre de l'Avant-Pays, compagnie de marionnettes in Montreal. From the outset, the company's members were interested in bunraku technique, in exploring the relationship between puppet and puppeteer, and in integrating actors and puppets within the same performance. For each production, a period for research and experimentation on various aspects – types of puppets, materials, scenography, staging, writing, etc. – marks the first stage in the creative process. Théâtre de l'Avant-Pays currently has 31 productions to its credit, which have been presented both in Canada and abroad. In the early 1980s, Théâtre de l'Avant-Pays also began developing exhibitions which use the company's puppets to showcase various aspects of puppet theatre. Artistic Director Michel Fréchette, one of the company's founding members, has also played an important role in the establishment of a new post-graduate diploma program in contemporary puppet theatre at the Université du Québec à Montréal, where he is a professor.