Robert Lepage and authorial process

Reynolds, James (2011) Robert Lepage and authorial process. In: Authoring Theatre; 14-15 July 2011, London, U.K.. (Unpublished)


Lepage’s reputation is that of the auteur, but through discourse, he frames his devised work as self-authoring. We must, he urges, let work ‘appear by itself’. Through such statements, Lepage distances himself from authorship. In this paper, James investigates whether Lepage’s work is indeed ‘orphaned’ (Burke) – lacking the trace of authorial signature. He argues that Lepage’s discourse elides authorship by asserting performance as selfauthoring, and mystifies authorial practices by foregrounding intuition (over aesthetic) as the basis of decision. Yet ‘authorial strategies’ (Fricker) are identifiable in Lepage performances – convergence, reflexivity, use of character, and others. This contradicts accepted understanding of Lepage’s process as having ‘absolute freedom’ and no ‘preconceived ideas’ (Caux and Gilbert). The significance of identifying authorship within Lepage’s collaborative context, therefore, is that it compels a re-description of that process, and challenges putative values like creative freedom attributed to it. Lepage’s process appears dialogic, and his performances writerly. But while his process is collaborative, and his performances retain a writerly quality for spectators, Lepage is not ‘dead’ as an author. Authorship may be elided in discourse, but Lepage’s return to authorship is pre-inscribed by the privileging accorded to him in selecting a primary Resource. Through privileged editing of collaborator’s subjective materials, Lepage gradually imposes a monologic, readerly condition upon the work. The elision of authorship in discourse thus conceals a potentially appropriative model of collaboration, and this paper critiques the ethics of such a model. Lepage’s reticence regarding authorial process is also challenged. This does more than displace responsibility for ‘meaning production onto audiences’ (Knowles). Lepage’s unwillingness to accept his role as the ‘big’ author denies ideological signature to his work – a lack that James argues is significant because it circumvents the full connection that Lepage seeks between his localised theatre-making practice, and the globalised context it operates within.

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