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Author: Karen Fricker

This book explores the development of Robert Lepage’s distinctive approach to stage direction in the early (1984–94) and middle (1995–2008) stages of his career, arguing that globalisation had a defining effect in shaping his aesthetic and professional trajectory. It combines examination of Lepage’s theatremaking techniques with discussion of his work’s effects on audiences, calling on Lepage’s own statements as well as existing scholarship and critical response. In addition to globalisation theory, the book draws on cinema studies, queer theory, and theories of affect and reception. As such, it offers an unprecedented conceptual framework, drawing together what has previously been a scattered field of research. Each of six chapters treats a particular aspect of globalisation, using this as a means to explore one or more of Lepage’s productions. These aspects include the relationship of the local (in Lepage’s case, his background in Québec) to the global; the place of individual experience within global late modernity; the effects of screen media on human perception; the particular affect of ‘feeling global’; the place of branding in contemporary creative systems; and the relationship of creative industries to neoliberal economies. Making theatre global: Robert Lepage’s original stage productions will be of interest to scholars of contemporary theatre, advanced-level undergraduates with an interest in the application of theoretical approaches to theatrical creation and reception, and arts lovers keen for new perspectives on one of the most talked-about theatre artists of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries.

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Karen Fricker

Introduction Robert Lepage is one of the best-known and most productive figures in the contemporary international performing arts; the London Daily Telegraph has called him ‘probably the planet’s most venerated director’ (Rees). He is active across performance genres, from original theatre productions to stagings of existing theatre and opera texts, to circus, ballet, film, and large-scale video installation. His creativity is at the centre of a small conglomeration of organisations in his native Québec City, which include Ex Machina, a not-for-profit production

in Robert Lepage’s original stage productions
The Dragon’s Trilogy
Karen Fricker

1 Local, global, universal? The Dragon’s Trilogy Québec is multiple, it is in the global village, and not just in the franco­phonie. It has to be part of the world! My nationalist act is to make theatre here and abroad, with my roots and my languages, my history. (qtd in Lévesque ‘Archange’)i Robert Lepage made this statement in 1992, less than a decade after his international reputation was launched with the touring success of the epic group production La Trilogie des dragons/The Dragon’s Trilogy and the solo show Vinci. While affirming the central place of

in Robert Lepage’s original stage productions
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Lepage in his own line of vision
Karen Fricker

-identified artist character who is suffering from a crisis brought on by loss and/or creative blockage goes on a journey in which he interacts with figures including ­ nderstanding of his great artists and artistic creations, and comes to a new level of u i ‘organique ­… technologique; on a travaillé avec des ordinateurs presque constamment’. FRICKER 9780719080067 PRINT (234x156) 2019.indd 65 14/07/2020 16:35 66 Robert Lepage’s original stage productions relationship to his work and his broader environment.3 As with all of Lepage’s original works, Vinci has its roots in

in Robert Lepage’s original stage productions
Abstract only
Karen Fricker

be explored (see Kidnie, Knowles ‘From Dream’). In the 2000s, a newer figure appears in Lepage’s work, the successful but disillusioned middle-aged artist (The Andersen Project’s Frédéric; Philippe in The Blue Dragon), as does a darker twist on the art-ascommodity theme: the potential of the loss of creativity under the deadening hand of commercial forces. Art markets are depicted as treacherous, volatile places where FRICKER 9780719080067 PRINT (234x156) 2019.indd 155 14/07/2020 16:35 156 Robert Lepage’s original stage productions 5.1  Tai Wei Foo as Xiao

in Robert Lepage’s original stage productions
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Lepage exposed
Karen Fricker

7 Coda: Lepage exposed I began this book by suggesting that elusiveness and resistance to categorisation are central strategies for Robert Lepage. His career is marked by ongoing attempts to fashion contexts and circumstances that allow him to work on terms that suit him. This means a delicate combination of freedom and structure: he resists serving others’ agendas and answering to timetables that are not his own, but because his work inherently involves other people and has become increasingly elaborate in terms of design and technology, organisations and

in Robert Lepage’s original stage productions
Karen Fricker

9780719080067 PRINT (234x156) 2019.indd 93 14/07/2020 16:35 94 Robert Lepage’s original stage productions Underlying Lepage’s statements here is an understanding of the role of media in shaping human perception that echoes that of many scholars, who have long argued that the way we see the world is not ‘a trans-historical given’ (Boenisch 105) but is, rather, shaped by conditions of history and culture. In the 1930s Walter Benjamin explored the implications of reproducing works of art through printing and photography (1968). Several decades later, Marshall McLuhan

in Robert Lepage’s original stage productions
Karen Fricker

published in the 1990s and early 2000s by Anglophone scholars grounded in cultural materialism (including myself), questioned the critical nature of Lepage’s engagement with representational practices. Considering his work through the lens of postmodern theory, Jen Harvie argued that the characteristic textual openness of Lepage’s productions ‘highlights and leaves volatile and problematic its representational practices but ­… does not explicitly engage in political debate’ (‘Robert Lepage’, 228). Lepage’s postmodernity, for Harvie, ‘prioritise[s] pleasure at the expense

in Robert Lepage’s original stage productions
Lepage and Ex Machina’s futures
Karen Fricker

shifted tack from the strategy described in the previous chapter of branding their work as being defined by creative evolution and progress. Ex Machina now foregrounds its capacity to deliver excellent and creatively daring performances across a number of genres and in multiple international locations with high levels of professionalism and efficiency. With the Diamant project Lepage FRICKER 9780719080067 PRINT (234x156) 2019.indd 184 14/07/2020 16:35 Neoliberalism, authorship, legacy 185 6.1  Marie Michaud, Tai Wei Foo, and Robert Lepage in The Blue Dragon. and

in Robert Lepage’s original stage productions