Robert Lepage Discusses His Origins and the ‘Autofiction’ of ‘887’


Robert Lepage in “887,” at the Brooklyn Academy of Music.

Stephanie Berger

When Robert Lepage was a boy, he played with boxes. Abandoning the toys his parents had saved up all year to buy for him, he’d build cityscapes with the packaging instead. Fifty years on, not a lot has changed. In “887,” his wondrous and wrenching solo show running through next weekend at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, Mr. Lepage, 59, acts alongside a giant cube that conjures his shabby Quebec City childhood home, his current chic apartment and other smaller boxes, too. The autobiographical production, presented by his company, Ex Machina, is a meditation on his family, memory and the Francophone separatist movements that unsettled Canada in the 1960s and ’70s.

On Sunday, just before a matinee, Mr. Lepage, who created the recent “Ring” cycle for the Metropolitan Opera and “Kà” for Cirque du Soleil, sat in his dressing room in stocking feet. Sipping a Coke Zero, he softly discussed theatrical intimacy and what he’d like his obituary to say. These are edited and condensed excerpts from the conversation.

When you were writing the show, did you go back to your childhood apartment at 887 Murray Avenue?

It’s still there. The front part looks the same. Not the back part. I remembered it being a huge place, and it was this tiny cramped place. That was a shock. Unfortunately for the residents, I performed [“887”] in Quebec City, not very far from there. People would go and do a pilgrimage, knock on doors. I should never have put in the real address.

Did you make the toys and models in the show yourself?

I design them. Everybody in the show, all of the technical people, come up with suggestions. We start by doing what kids do, taking big refrigerator containers and punching holes and saying this is my house. You prototype in a naïve, playful way.

What has it…

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