Québécois visionary and one of Canada’s foremost cultural ambassadors, Robert Lepage has established himself as an internationally acclaimed director (stage and film), designer, playwright and performer. His dynamic and original approach constantly pushes the boundaries of theatrical performance, most notably with the use of new technologies. Drawing inspiration from contemporary life, his work has influenced a generation of artists and practitioners.
Born in Québec City, 1957, Robert Lepage had a profound interest in geography from an early age, so much so that he even dreamed of becoming a professor. However, it was his interest in art, which was to lead him to what would become his greatest passion, theatre. In 1975, at 17 years old, he began his training at the Conservatoire d’Art Dramatique de Québec. On returning from an internship in Paris (1978), he spent two years acting, writing and directing various productions before joining Théâtre Repère.
In 1984, he created Circulations, which was presented across Canada and won an award as Best Canadian Production during La Quinzaine Internationale de Théâtre de Québec. The following year, with The Dragon’s Trilogy, his work first received international recognition. This was followed by Vinci (1986), Polygraph (1987-1990) and Tectonic Plates (1988-1990).
From 1989 to 1993, he was the artistic director at the National Arts Centre’s French Theatre, in Ottawa. At the same time, he continued his innovative stage directing with Needles and Opium (1991-1993/1994-1996), Coriolan, Macbeth et la tempête (1992-1994) and A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1992), for which he became the first North American ever to direct a Shakespeare play at London’s Royal National Theatre.
In 1994, Lepage took an important step by founding his own multidisciplinary production company, Ex Machina. Taking on once more the role of artistic director, he lead his new team through the creative process that produced the critically acclaimed Seven Streams of the River Ota (1994), Le Songe d’une nuit d’été (1995) along with his third one-man show, Elsinore (1995-1997). In 1994, he began to branch out, extending his talents into the world of cinema. His abilities as a scriptwriter and director were immediately recognised with his first feature film, Le Confessionnal, which was invited to open the Director’s Fortnight at the Cannes Film Festival in 1995. He later went on to direct Le Polygraphe (1996), Nô (1998) and his first English feature film Possible Worlds (2000).
La Caserne Dalhousie, a multidisciplinary production centre, opened in June of 1997 under Lepage’s watchful eye. In their new workspace, he and his team created Geometry of Miracles (1998), Zulu Time (1999) and The Far Side of the Moon (2000). The many prizes won by his most recent one-man show include four trophies at le Gala des Masques, a Time Out Award and the prestigious Evening Standard Award.
His growing reputation elicited offers from many different fields thus allowing him to broaden his artistic experience. Presenting the double bill Bluebeard`s Castle and Erwartung at the Canadian Opera Company, Lepage proved to be as gifted in opera as he was in theatre. He repeated this feat in 1999 by presenting The Damnation of Faust in Japan. The production went on to play in Paris in 2001. In addition, he conceived and directed for the stage Peter Gabriel’s Secret World Tour in 1993, which was hailed by critics worldwide. He later took on the role of artistic director of Métissages (2000), an exhibition at Le Musée de la Civilisation du Québec. He recently teamed up again with Gabriel to stage his 2002 tour, Growing Up Live.
Lepage’s work has been recognized and honoured numerous times. The most recent prizes include the medal of l’Ordre National du Québec, awarded in 1999. In September of 2000, he was the recipient of the SORIQ Award, acknowledging his dynamic and varied international career. In October 2001, he was honoured to become a “World Leader” at the Harbourfront Centre, recognizing once more the extent of his worldwide success. In March of 2002, the French embassy invited him to join the Legion of Honor. In April 2002, the Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce named him “Grand Québécois.” In November 2002, he was recipient of the Herbert Whittaker Drama Bench Award for his outstanding contribution to Canadian Theatre. Finally, in November 2003, he was recipient of the Prix Denise-Pelletier, the most prestigious award attributed by the Government of Québec in the field of stage arts.
Recently, he oversaw La Casa Azul’s world tour, a biographical play about Mexican painter Frida Kahlo. He and a new cast also revived the cult-classic Dragon’s Trilogy for the Festival de Théâtre des Amériques’ 10th Edition. The show has since been presented in Europe and worldwide. Finally, Lepage directed, in 2003, his fifth feature film, adapted from his award-winning play La Face cachée de la lune, or, The Far Side of the Moon.
The Busker`s Opera was presented at the Montreal High Lights Festival in February 2004. For the second time, Lepage worked with the robotics specialist Louis-Philippe Demers. The resulting “jaquemart” (jackdow), directed by Robert Lepage, is a special commission for the Lille 2004 – European Capital of Culture jaquemart programme.
Currently, he is collaborating with Cirque du Soleil who called on his talent to create their next permanent Las Vegas show named KÀ at the MGM Grand Hotel. Along with Maestro Lorin Maazel, he is working on an opera based on George Orwell’s novel 1984.
He is also working on various new productions including Elegant Universe, La Celestina and his next one-man show.
Also see: Robert Lepage’s filmography.
Photo of Robert Lepage by Sophie Grenier
This biography of Robert Lepage was supplied to Northernstars.ca