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The local, the global, and interdisciplinary performance in the works of Robert Lepage/Proximité, overture et relations interdisciplinaires dans l’œuvre de Robert Lepage - Conference report

Canada House and Birkbeck College, June 2-3, 2006

This bilingual event was the first international conference on the performer and director, Robert Lepage.

The academic elements of the two-day event were hosted by Canada House and Birkbeck College, and the Deputy High Commissioner, Guy Saint-Jacques, opened the conference with a welcome from the Canadian High Commission. A further welcome was extended by the head of the conference organising team, Aleksandar (Sasha) Dundjerovic (University of Manchester). Plenary papers were given by Steve Dixon (Brunel University), who spoke on ‘Space, Metamorphosis, and Extratemporality in the Theatre of Robert Lepage’, Jane Koustas (Brock University), who spoke on ‘Robert Lepage meets the ROC’, Jonathan Rittenhouse (Bishop’s University), who gave a paper on ‘Identifying Robert Lepage Ltd’, and Josette Féral (École supérieure de théâtre, l’Université du Québec à Montréal), who spoke on ‘Fragments d’identités’. Other speakers, who came from the UK, Canada and Québec, France, Turkey and Brazil, included Bruno Cornellier, Christian Roy, Hilimi Alacki, Sylvie Bissonnette, Ludovic Fouquet, Christie Carson, Ilva Navarro, Karen Fricker, Rémy Charest, and Bill Marshall. Papers prompted animated discussion in French and in English: appropriately, given the importance of language in Lepage’s work, bilingualism was a key feature of the two days.

In addition to the more formal elements of the conference, there were a number of other events that were equally important in fostering friendship as well as academic exchange. A reception by the Canadian High Commission in the impressively portraited Council Room of Birkbeck College, opened by Bill Lawton (Canada House) and Sasha Dundjerovic preceded a public lecture by Michael Morris (Cultural Industry), which provided a personal insight into the concepts and methods of Robert Lepage. A further reception and dinner for plenary speakers and conference organisers was offered by la Délégation générale du Québec à Londres/Québec Government Office in London, and was opened by Director of Public Affairs, Pierre Loiselle. An informal get-together at the Texas Embassy bar and restaurant the night before the conference opened was organised by conference administrator, Tracie Scott (Birkbeck College).

As has become something of a tradition with GRECF conferences of recent years, the weather was superb, allowing visitors and residents alike a sometimes rare opportunity to enjoy the UK sunshine. The happy memories of the conference were, however, largely fostered by the hard work that was carried out by many behind the scenes before. Bill Lawton and Vivien Hughes (Canada House) were enthusiastic in their support, helped to secure funding, ensured organisation at Canada House, and arranged the reception at Birkbeck College; outgoing BACS president, Itesh Sachdev, liaised with Birkbeck, the High Commission, and the Délégation générale du Québec; and BACS secretary, Jodie Robson, publicised the event and processed the financing. Brigitte Effemay (Délégation générale du Québec à Londres) liaised closely with the conference team and organised the reception at the Délégation. Further support from the Délégation was offered by Agent général, George MacLaren, Pierre Loiselle, Colin Hicks and Céline Gagnon. Sasha Dundjerovic invited speakers, liaised with the High Commission and the Délégation, and organised the programme, in addition to running a series of workshops in Manchester that preceded the London event. Thanks must also go to Rémy Charest and Karen Fricker, who both played a key role in the workshops in addition to presenting at the conference. Karen Fricker was especially instrumental to the conference’s coming into being, as she proposed the idea at the ACSI Intercultural Dialogue: Canada and the Other conference at Cork in 2004. Most praise, however, should go to Tracie Scott, who with her energy, foresight and organisational skills, was vital to the smooth-running of the event. Her partner, Chris, should also be thanked for recording the conference and for providing general technical assistance.

Events of this kind, which garner national and international publicity both in and beyond academia, are proof of the effectiveness of support for Canadian Studies programmes outside of Canada. Not only do they showcase the variety and depth of academic investigation within the discipline, but they foster new networks of intellectual and social interaction, and keep this relatively young field of study alive. The support of the High Commission is vital to such interventions, and is gratefully acknowledged, as is the additional support provided by the University of Manchester, Birkbeck College, and la Délégation générale à Londres.

Ceri Morgan, GRECF convenor, Keele University

 


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