Academic journal article TriQuarterly

Robert Lepage's Theater

Academic journal article TriQuarterly

Robert Lepage's Theater

Article excerpt

It's truly a great pleasure for me to be here tonight, and I would like to thank Northwestern for inviting me and those responsible for the Hope Abelson Artists in Residence program. I have been very busy, and it has been crazy trying to slot this into my schedule. The reason why I accepted was not because of the money, but because it is an opportunity for me to stop and think, to think out loud with an audience, to interact with an audience. Don't worry this is not going to be a solo piece or a monologue. Eventually there will be a question and answer period and we can exchange views on the subject matter that we're going to be treating tonight. The thing that preoccupies me the most, not just during these days, but that has been preoccupying me for the last few years in my practice, is what's going to happen to this extraordinary artistic expression called theater. I am someone who is very much enamored with that form of expression. I believe in it very much still today. I think it is an extraordinary, vibr ant, crazy form of art. The most difficult thing is not to convince audiences to come and see my shows, or to convince audiences that theater is an extraordinary form of art, a form of expression, but to convince theater people that theater is the most fantastic thing. If we want to move into the twenty-first century and help this form of expression evolve and grow, and become something even more extraordinary, we must now reflect amongst ourselves, as theater crafts people.

What is theater? Why is it still alive? It's not going to die, and why? These are questions that I necessarily can't ask of the people with whom I'm working, because we're way too busy putting on shows, too absorbed in all those crazy production schedules. So the only people whom I could actually ask these questions, and interact and have a dialogue with, are either journalists, but of course they have their own tainted way of approaching things, or the audience, which of course is the most important intellectual entity with whom it is interesting to dialogue about theater. The audience is as much a part of the theater phenomenon as the theater artist, and we'll go deeper into that later. The reason why I'm talking about trying to convince theater people, or theater crafts people, that theater is an extraordinary form of art is that I meet few people who still believe in theater as a form of art, as a form of expression.

People do theater for all sorts of reasons. People do theater in the meantime. People do theater because they can't afford to do film, or can't afford to do TV. A lot of playwrights whom I know write plays because there is money for writing plays in Quebec, and very little money for writing novels. They would like to write novels, but they don't. They write plays. So, I don't know what the situation is here, in the United States, but I can tell you that where I come from plays are being sold in book shops without ever being staged. It used to be that you'd buy a play because the play had not only been written by someone, but it had been staged. It had been through the meat grinder of the theater production context. It had been through the meat grinder of the actors. It had been through the hands of the stage architect, of a director, and all the others who worked on it. That's not the case now, at least in the French speaking world, and in the Latin countries. You can now buy a play that's never been staged. And it's better that way anyway because the authors don't want their plays to be staged. They don't want directors changing things all around. They don't want actors to be breaking the play into pieces and doing their own things with it. Of course, these authors don't want their play to be a living thing.

For me that is symptomatic of what I have come across. I don't want to sound pretentious, but I work all around the world. My personal work is being shown internationally on tours on a regular basis. …

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