“Interest in several aspects of the exploration of the Universe brought me back – completely unexpectedly – to my own childhood and adolescence. It turned out that my youth, which I had always thought to have been so sunny, often had been colored in the shades of the moon – blue or grey.” Canadian Robert Lepage’s thoughts on his childhood move DE I’s correspondent to the very depths of her soul…
DE I: In the play ‘Dark Side of the Moon’, we get the impression that the narrator is talking not form the point of view of a Canadian, but from that of a completely Soviet person. How did you achieve that?
R.L.: It’s just that I have a very affectionate attitude to everything connected to the study of the Moon in the Soviet era. First as a child and then as a teenager, I followed these events. The Americans were doing the same as the Soviets. In general, conquering space was very much a military activity, and on the American side, all the options had been calculated out. But the Russian approach seemed so much more romantic. I remember seeing some photographs and they were remarkable. The Soviet Space programme seemed almost fantastical, crazy, and the people involved in it were like cowboys. It all looked like some kind of crazy scheme which for a young man was far more attractive than the heroic, military or religious aspects which didn’t interest me at all.
DE I: Which aspects of Russian culture influenced you?
R.L.: In 1970 when there was a series of hockey matches between the Canadian and Soviet teams, something unexpectedly just opened up. These games were pretty ordinary events, but in Canada they awoke an interest in Russian culture, however strange that might sound. Suddenly many people began to understand how close the cultures of Russia and Canada were to one another. There were many cross-over points– both cultures were northern, the way of life, our values. But we were also countries that were closed to one another.
DE I: So what connects Russia and Canada?
R.L.: I wanted to become a geography teacher and really did a lot to try and achieve that. Land, territory is like a continuation of the human body. We (Canada and Russia) have similar territories and geographical positions. Our relationship to light and space are very close. Russia and Canada are both very large countries. And that’s where the parallel starts for me. Further to that, the way our everyday lives are organized, the way society is run, are very similar.
DE I: How is originality persevered in a world over saturated with information? Maybe it’s better not to know any more in order to remain true to oneself? Especially in theatre…
R.L.: We were brought up in the culture of performance. To prove that we have one quality or another, we have to go out and win prizes and show that we are ‘Number 1’, better than the competition. I have a different philosophy. You have to be unique. Being unique doesn’t mean being first, second or third. In theatre and art school, students are impregnated with the thought that you have to be ‘first’. But if only one person is first, there isn’t a lot of room then for the rest. That’s how I look at the world. I began to understand with time that trying to be the best is wrong, limited, a dumb way of seeing the world. But being unique means being original. You must be unique!!
DE I: Who are your mentors and who inspires you?
R.L.: These are people from different spheres. Pina Bausch. What she does is not quite dramatic theatre, but her form of dance is very theatrical. She turned theatre on its head, without being involved in her own theatre. I think she influenced me a lot. And when I was a teenager, I went to rock ‘plays’ when rock was still considered theatrical – there were sets and theatrical costumes. Later I got to know Peter Brooke and Bob Wilson and Ariane Mnouchkine who had created a system of art that inspired me. I am in awe of her – she is a great artist and a terrific author. She recounts history and she is surrounded by this entire system of things. Her theatre is a place that literally is like a fountain of creativity. People develop working with her. And that nowadays is pretty rare.
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