Quebec Studies

Brave New World: Robert Lepage and the First Nations Presence

Quebec Studies (2015), 59, (1), 145–170.

Abstract

This study considers the First Nations presence in three very different productions by Robert Lepage. The first, La Tempête, a translation/adaptation, was staged in the Huron-Wendat First Nations community outside Québec City. Totem was a joint production with Cirque du Soleil and The Image Mill was a 50-minute sound and light projection presented in Québec City initially as part of the 400th anniversary. While the medium, performance style, performers, and audience vary considerably among the three productions, all include a portrayal of the First Nations from a non-Native perspective. This article contends that, in spite of well-intentioned efforts to the contrary, Lepage falls into stereotypical patterns staging “Imaginary” or “Dead” “Indians” reminiscent of the noble savage of the brave new world. Rather than furthering our understanding of the First Nations by portraying them as active participants in contemporary society and in a shared geopolitical and socio-cultural space, these productions reinforce stereotypes situating the First Nations in a distant (and largely irrelevant), romanticized past.

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Koustas, Jane