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Robert Lepage: A young, confident artist

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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At age 24, Robert Lepage catapults on to the Canadian stage with Circulation - a play in French and English. Circulation is about a young Quebec woman's journey to the United States to unravel her tangled family history. Lepage writes, stars and directs the critically acclaimed show. It plays to sold-out audiences and marks Lepage's breakthrough on Canadian stage.

His fluent use of both Canada's official languages signals the attitude of a new generation of Quebecers. Lepage is part of an emerging group of Quebec artists who have no qualms about speaking English. "I don't think we have to save the language like we used to," says Lepage in this CBC-TV report. "I think it's strong enough now." Lepage's Circulation enjoys critical and popular acclaim for blending culture and language. 
• "In the early '80s, we were still using the Quebec language as our primary weapon. Then Lepage arrived who, instead of language, used these incredible powerful and simple images. We were all flabbergasted that the little boy from Quebec City managed to overturn everything." -- Quebec playwright Michel Tremblay in the Guardian, June 23, 2001

Circulation won the 1984 award for Best Canadian Production at La Quinzaine Internationale de Théâtre de Québec festival.

• Lepage believes in a collaborative, collective approach to theatre. He describes it as a backward method. Circulation, for example, began with a seemingly insignificant object - a map of the United States - rather than preconceived themes and ideas. He talks about this process with CBC's Peter Gzowski.

• Lepage described Circulation as 1/3 English, 1/3 French and 1/3 movement.

• In 1985, Lepage achieved international acclaim with The Dragon's Trilogy. It's a six-hour play divided into three acts, spanning over three decades, three Canadian cities and three languages. The play follows the lives of two Quebec girls, centring on themes of war, exile and cultural identity.

The Dragon's Trilogy toured over 30 cities on three different continents before it wrapped up in 1992.

• In 1994, Lepage founded his multidisciplinary company Ex Machina, bringing together people from the world of performing arts including writers, actors, set designers, opera singers and puppeteers. The artists then collaborate to reinvent performances. Lepage didn't want to limit the company by using the word theatre in its name.

• Ex Machina was the foundation for such critically praised productions as The Seven Streams of the River Ota. Developed in three stages between 1994 and 1997, this epic seven-part, seven-hour production traced the lives of seven characters living on three continents over a period of 50 years. It dealt with everything from the Holocaust to AIDS and the aftermath of Hiroshima.
Medium: Television
Program: The Journal
Broadcast Date: Dec. 17, 1984
Guest(s): Robert Lepage
Reporter: Josh Freed
Duration: 2:43
Scenes from Circulation written and directed by Robert Lepage.

Last updated: October 29, 2014

Page consulted on October 29, 2014

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