“I didn’t understand at all why we were being separated into two categories of students,” he said.
That first day set off a search for identity — his own and that of the French Québécois — that, almost by accident, eventually launched his career.
In 2009, he was invited to perform at the Théâtre de Quat’Sous in Montreal, which then showcased immigrant artists every Monday evening. Drawing on his life, he wrote and performed a monologue that would become “Un,” the first part of his trilogy.
“Since my arrival in Quebec, I’ve never felt more like a guy from elsewhere, like a stranger, an exile, lost, an immigrant,” he said in the play. “Never have I had to explain so often where I came from, to justify my accent, to describe my path, to pronounce over and over again my family name.”
His anguished search for identity in “Un” resonated in a province where the dominant French Québécois had long fought to preserve their own sense of self, surrounded as they are by an English majority.
“Quebec is a society that’s had to protect and defend itself, always positioning itself in opposition to the other,” Mr. Soleymanlou said. “That’s something I didn’t understand in the beginning — that the Québécois want to know how you define yourself because they have to define themselves to protect themselves.”
Mr. Soleymanlou continued his search for identity in “Deux,” in a dialogue with a bilingual Jewish Montrealer, and then in “Three,” which featured three dozen French speakers who were not French Québécois.