Determining the industry’s blood type

I’m a total Robert Lepage fanboy. Case in point; last year while the rest of the 17-men stag party I was with in Vegas started the night with a UFC fight, I suffered their slings and arrows and tucked myself into a middle seat at Lepage’s Cirque installation Ka, alone with a box of popcorn and a Bourbon Manhattan (Vegas is a trip). Nerdy, yes. Worth it, most definitely. My gushing over the play when I joined up with the squad caused more than a few members of the actor-rich crew to express just a touch of envy. And then we got really drunk. Anyway, I’m tangenting…

I’m turning to Robert Lepage for inspiration more and more these days. The guy’s genious is no secret, but it’s something in his relentlessness of production that keeps pushing me. He’s the founder and AD of the production company Ex Machina, and I’ve been submersed in the content of their web site for a while now. Just don’t call it a theatre company:

In 1993, when Robert Lepage asked his collaborators to help find a name for his new company, he had one condition: the word theatre could not be part of the name.

Ex Machina is thus a multidisciplinary company bringing together actors, writers, set designers, technicians, opera singers, puppeteers, computer graphic designers, video artists, film producers, contortionists and musicians.

Ex Machina’s creative team believes that theatre needs new blood. That the performing arts – dance, opera, music – should be mixed with recorded arts – filmmaking, video art and multimedia. That there must be meetings between scientists and playwrights, between set painters and architects, and between artists from Québec and the rest of the world.

New artistic forms will surely emerge from these gatherings. Ex Machina wants to rise to the challenge and become a laboratory, an incubator for a form of theatre that will reach and touch audiences from this new millennium.

I wanted to share it with you, it’s a content-rich site full of video of their work. I tend to hate theatre on video, but for study/archival purposes it’s great, and most of the stuff here is prepared trailer-style, with a lot of thought given to video production. I have no idea what’s going on throughout most of this video, for example, but I know that it makes me want to make art.

The success behind Lepage and Ex Machina seems predicated on enlarging the scope of what we generally consider collaboration. It requires an unclenching of our usual control over ideas, and seems to require the development of a higher degree of tolerance for chaos. It frightens me and I love it.

How far out of our comfort zone are we willing to journey to propel theatre to where it must go?


My thanks to LSP ensemble member Steve Park for the heads up. I should be posting his interview any day now.


  1. Thanks for sharing this! I am huge Lepage fan. I got to see his 9-hour cycle Lipsynch when I was in London last fall and it completely redefined my notion of what’s possible in the theatre. There’s a great interview with him at UC Berkeley on Youtube, as well as a lot of great written interviews with him. Thrilled to see you post this! I love his mission statement quote and return to it frequently. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Many of the best live performance-making companies are experimenting in this way. Why wouldn’t you if you call yourself an artist. It’s the 21st century after all, and the toolbox is overflowing!

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