Call and Response: Olympia Dukakis

by Sandra Delgado


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“Even I had to see that if I was to stay an actress I had to stop trying to win. I had to start playing again. I had lost that, which is of course a great pleasure. Never mind that the best work comes from it.”
- Olympia Dukakis, I AM THEATRE

The issue of trying to control a situation is one that I think we are all familiar with. As Ms. Dukakis says, when you give up trying to control and just play, you will bear the biggest fruits. I think about the creation of para Carmen, my first time out as the lead actor-creator of an ensemble generated piece. I had put this pressure on myself that since I was leading the group, I had to know all the answers. I had to have it all figured out before the first rehearsal, otherwise what kind of leader was I? I thought I knew what the piece would be and on which road I would take this ensemble to get there,  but I quickly found out I couldn’t predict or control this living, breathing idea. I discovered the pleasure of being wrong. When the piece started going in a different direction than I had originally intended, I took a deep breath and embraced it. My mantra became “it will reveal itself to me”. And it did. I had to trust myself and my ensemble. Together we figured it out, and it evolved into a piece richer than I had originally conceived, for it had a little part of all of us in it.

The gifts bore by an ensemble can only be activated when you give yourself over completely. This is not a passive relinquishing of control, it is an active one, one that welcomes whatever comes with a earnest and strong-minded curiosity. These illuminations have the power to change you as a person.   The discoveries I make in the theater make me stronger, wiser, kinder, more patient and more curious about the life I lead outside of the stage. And as Ms. Dukakis says, there is another payoff: the quality and the pleasure of the work. When you are at your most bare and unguarded, the audience can fully take in the gifts you are giving them: honesty, illumination; and the invitation to ponder their own place in the world, the largest ensemble.

What truths abut yourself has the theater illuminated for you?

Have you changed as a result?

What are some ways that you can keep the idea of “playing” alive for yourself throughout rehearsals and performance?

Call and Response extends the conversation surrounding the I AM THEATRE videos (and hopefully inspires you to make your own video). You can watch Olympia’s video and catch up on I AM THEATRE here.

Sandra Delgado is a Colombian-American performer-creator, director and producer. She is a founding ensemble member of Collaboraction and an ensemble member of Teatro Vista, both based in Chicago. She has been seen on the stages of the Goodman, Steppenwolf, Lookingglass, Victory Gardens, About Face Theater, Actors Theater of Louisville, Kansas City Repertory and INTAR. Ms. Delgado is a TCG Fox Foundation Fellow in residency at the Goodman Theater where she is developing her latest collaboratively generated piece, para mis Madres (for my Mothers).