Versatile in every form of theatre craft, Robert Lepage is equally talented as a director, playwright, actor and film director. His creative and original approach to theatre has won him international acclaim and shaken the dogma of classical stage direction to its foundations, especially through his use of new technologies. Contemporary history is his source of inspiration, and his modern and unusual work transcends all boundaries.
Robert Lepage was born in Quebec in 1957. He took an early interest in geography, and when he later discovered all art forms, theatre caught his particular attention. He entered the Conservatoire d’art dramatique de Québec in 1975 at the age of 17. After a study period in Paris in 1978 he returned to Quebec and became involved in many creative projects, gaining experience as actor, author and director. Two years later he joined the Théâtre Repère.
An international recognition from the start
In 1984, his play Circulations toured Canada and received Best Canadian Production award at the Quinzaine Internationale de Théâtre de Québec. The next year The Dragons’ Trilogy gained him an international reputation, quickly followed by Vinci (1986), Polygraph (1987) and Tectonic Plates (1988). In 1988 he formed his own professional management company, Robert Lepage Inc. (RLI).
From 1989 to 1993 he was Artistic Director of the Théâtre français at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa. Meanwhile pursuing his own creative projects, he directed Needles and Opium (1991), Coriolanus, Macbeth, and The Tempest (1992). With A Midsummer Night’s Dream in 1992 he became the first North American to direct a Shakespeare play at the Royal National Theatre in London.
Ex Machina – a turning point
A turning point in his career came with the founding of his multidisciplinary production company, Ex Machina, in 1994. Under his artistic direction, this new team produced a steady output of plays, beginning with The Seven Streams of the River Ota (1994), A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1995) and a solo production, Elsinore (1995).
In 1994, he made his début in the world of cinema. He wrote and directed his first feature film, Le Confessional, which appeared the following year at the Cannes Festival Directors’ Fortnight. He went on to direct Polygraph in 1996, Nô in 1997, Possible Worlds in 2000 (his first feature film written in English), and finally, in 2003, a film adaptation of his play The Far Side of the Moon.
La Caserne, a multidisciplinary production centre in Quebec City, opened in 1997 under Robert Lepage’s leadership. In their new quarters he and his team created and produced Geometry of Miracles (1998), Zulu Time (1999), The Far Side of The Moon (2000), La Casa Azul (2001), a new version of The Dragons’ Trilogy with a new cast (2003) and The Busker’s Opera (2004). This was followed by The Andersen Project (2005), Lipsynch (2007), The Blue Dragon (2008) and Eonnagata (2009).
Playing Cards (2012) consist of four parts: SPADES, HEARTS, DIAMONDS, and CLUBS, each exploring a universe inspired by the asset the suit represents. SPADES premiered in Madrid in May 2012. HEARTS will premiere in Fall 2013 as well as a new staging of Needles and Opium.
Rocks shows, exhibits, circus and architectural projections
Robert Lepage is often asked to turn his creative hand to new fields. In 1993, he directed Peter Gabriel’s Secret World Tour. He joined forces with Peter Gabriel again in 2002 to direct Growing Up Tour.
In 2000, he was involved in producing Métissages, an exhibition at the Musée de la civilisation in Quebec City.
He designed and directed Cirque du Soleil shows: KÀ (2005), a permanent show in Las Vegas, and TOTEM (2010), a show under Grand Chapiteau that will tour worldwide.
For Quebec City’s 400th anniversary in 2008, Robert Lepage and Ex Machina created the largest architectural projection ever achieved: The Image Mill™. In 2009, Aurora Borealis, a permanent lighting installation inspired by the colors of the northern lights was created on the same location.
Robert Lepage made a grand entrance in the opera world when he staged the successful double bill: Bluebeard’s Castle and Erwartung (1993). His presence on the operatic stage continued with La Damnation de Faust presented for the first time in the Saito Kinen Festival Matsumoto, Japan (1999), then at the Opera National de Paris and the Metropolitan Opera in New York.
Among his achievements in opera: 1984 based on the novel by George Orwell, with Maestro Lorin Maazel providing the musical direction (2005), The Rake’s Progress (2007) and The Nightingale and Other short Fables which premiered in Toronto at the Canadian Opera Company (2009), and has been presented at the Festival d’Aix-en-Provence and Opéra de Lyon in 2010.
Das Rheingold, Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen prelude, premiered September 2010 at The Metropolitan Opera with the cycle being presented during the 2010-11 and 2011-12 seasons. His staging of The Tempest, by Thomas Adès, libretto by Meredith Oakes, based on William Shakespeare’s eponymous play, takes the stage in Québec then in New York in 2012.
Robert Lepage’s work has been recognized by many awards. Among the most important:
1999: Medal of the Officers of the Ordre national du Quebec
2000: SORIQ Award (La Société des relations internationales de Québec) for the impact of his work outside Quebec
2001: he is recognized with the World Leaders Association of Harbourfront Centre, in honour of the international scope of his career
2002: Légion d’honneur (France)
2002: the Quebec Chamber of Commerce makes him “Grand Québécois”
2002: he wins the Herbert Whittaker Drama Bench Award for his outstanding contribution to Canadian theatre
2003: he wins the Denise Pelletier Prize, the highest distinction awarded by the Quebec government in the performing arts field
2003: National Theatre School’s Gascon Thomas Award
2004: he is awarded the Hans Christian Andersen Prize for his outstanding artistic contribution to honouring Hans Christian Andersen worldwide
2005: he receives the Institut France-Canada’s Samuel de Champlain Prize for his contribution to French culture
2005: Stanislavski Award for his contribution to international theatre and the dissemination of his productions The Dragons’ Trilogy, The Seven Streams of the River Ota and The Busker’s Opera
2007: the Festival de l’Union des Théâtres de l’Europe honours him with the distinguished Prix Europe, previously awarded to Ariane Mnouchkine and Bob Wilson among others
2007: The production of The Far Side of the Moon is recognized by The Golden Mask Festival of Russian Performing Arts in the category of Best Foreign Production
2009: he receives the Governor General’s Performing Arts Award for his outstanding contribution to the cultural life of the country
2011: Médaille de la ville de Québec for his overall achievements
2012: recipient of the 2012 Eugene McDermott Award in the Arts at MIT
2012: recipient of the 2012 Prix de la Fondation de l’Opéra de Québec for his staging of The Tempest created at the Festival d’opéra de Québec