Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts, Edith Cowan University
Hello Quebec: 2 Weeks with Robert Lepage
I always come back to the same old notion that [theatre] is a gathering, a meeting point. A gathering in the sense that a group of artists get together to tell a story, and also the collective audience. – Lepage (1997)
The act of gathering is an important one for theatre-makers, the act of coming together in the rehearsal room signals the beginning of a story. How this creative process unfolds is unique depending on the director, actors, creatives, crew and context and the dynamic that exists between them. Central to the process is the leadership style of the director which influences, and often dictates the manner in which material is generated. The unbridled power that many directors wield, or are endowed with, can inhibit individuals from fully contributing to a creative enterprise. Not so with Robert Lepage.
According to Dundjerovic (2009), “Robert Lepage is one of the world’s foremost theatre directors” (p. 1) and a key contemporary performance visionary. Lepage has produced international, award winning productions for over three decades. For two weeks I observed the leadership style of Lepage in the creative development of 887, at Ex Machina in Quebec to understand how Lepage uses power in the rehearsal room. What I witnessed is what Mary Parker Follett (1924 ) describes as a ‘power-with’ approach. She contends that when “differing interests meet they need not oppose but only confront each other” (p. 156). In confrontation, both views are taken into account and the result is something new and different. This paper argues that Lepage’s leadership style is one where confrontation leads to a creative process that fully embraces the collective creativity of all who participate in it, resulting in a powerful theatricality evident in the lauded work of Robert Lepage.
Gabrielle Metcalf holds a PhD in Theatre Directing from The Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts where she currently lectures in Acting and Directing and provides intimacy coaching for students. She has a special interest in leadership methodologies and processes for directors which she has applied to her directing and teaching practice. She has used an autoethnographic approach in her practice-led research to interrogate the position that a director holds in the rehearsal process and has just completed a book, Teaching Drama, commissioned by Beijing Normal University, outlining how drama can be taught in Chinese schools. Gabrielle also works with a variety of corporations across Australia and Asia training leaders in effective communication styles.