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Robert Lepage: A shy and introverted kid

Director, writer, actor Robert Lepage is one of Canada's most renowned figures in performing arts. Highlights from his astonishing oeuvre include epic plays, The Dragon's Trilogy and Needles and Opium, award-winning films, Le Confessional and Far Side of the Moon, and even rock shows. This Quebec native continues to push artistic boundaries, earning his reputation as this country's creative genius.

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Robert Lepage was born on Dec. 12, 1957, in Quebec City. He grew up in a completely bilingual, working-class household. His two older adopted siblings were schooled in English while Robert and his younger sister went to French schools. His upbringing was a metaphor for Canada; two solitudes under one roof, reports CBC's Laurie Brown. Events in Lepage's childhood made him feel like an outsider.

At age five, he developed alopecia, a rare condition that causes complete hair loss. As a teenager, Lepage suffered depression. He also realized that he was gay at a young age. All this made him shy and introverted. It wasn't until Lepage enrolled in compulsory high school drama classes that he began to break out of his shell.

In 1975, at age 17, he enrolled at the Conservatoire d'Art Dramatique de Québec. He then went to Paris to train at the Alain Knapp theatre school for three weeks in 1978. Upon his return to Quebec City, Lepage joined the experimental theatre company Le Théâtre Repère in 1982. 
• "When I was growing up, people had long hair then. You want normality, whether it's sexually, or your hair, or what you smoked. And I didn't have any hair and the first joint I smoked was spiked. So life says to you that it's not supposed to be part of the picture. So you take refuge in your inner self and you become a very introverted person." -- Robert Lepage in the Globe & Mail, Oct. 11, 2001

• Robert Lepage's parents, Ferdinand and Germaine, had adopted two children, David and Anne, before Robert and his biological sister, Lynda, were born. Lepage remembered on CBC's Ideas how he would quarrel with his older siblings over whether to watch Hockey Night In Canada in English or in French.
• Lepage's younger sister Lynda Beaulieu became his assistant in 1997.

• Growing up, Lepage dreamed of being a rock star. He loved theatrical rock like Jethro Tull, Genesis and Gentle Giant. Later his childhood fantasy partly came true when he designed and directed musician Peter Gabriel's Secret World tour. The 1993 tour performed 119 shows in 19 countries.
• "Robert is a real visionary, creating theatre for people who don't like theatre." -- Peter Gabriel.

• Before he found theatre, Lepage held odd jobs working in a pizzeria and in telemarketing.
• When it comes to politics he says he is neither a formal separatist nor a federalist but a world citizen.
Medium: Television
Program: The National Magazine
Broadcast Date: Jan. 10, 1996
Guest(s): Robert Lepage
Reporter: Laurie Brown
Duration: 3:19
Scenes from Vinci and Le Polygraphe(Canadian Covernment, Cinéa, Filmboard Berlin-Brandenburg, Gouvernement du Québec, Ministere de la Culture, Société de Développement des Entreprises Culturelles, and Téléfilm Canada) written and directed by Robert Lepage.

Last updated: June 12, 2013

Page consulted on September 10, 2014

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