Aurelia Thierrée

Actress Aurélia Thierrée sits down for a brief talk with Lincoln Center Festival’s Charles Sheek about a life in the theater and the inner heartbeat of her newest show, Murmurs.

Charles Sheek You sort of grew up in a circus—Le Cirque Imaginaire and Cirque Invisible. How do you think that part of your childhood has colored your view of the world?

Aurélia Thierrée I have a strange relationship with time. We traveled a lot, performed at night, and lived in a caravan. I liked the softness and warmth of lights on a stage, something mysterious. I loved waking up in the morning and, discovering a new landscape outside my plexiglass window.

CS Do you remember what your first stage role was?

AT I appeared out of a small box. When I was a little older I was a suitcase with only my legs coming out. My previous show, Aurelia’s Oratorio, opened with me in a chest of drawers.

CS Was there a particular time when you made the decision to make acting your life’s work?

AT I always loved theaters. I look at them the same way I would look at a person, or at an apartment or room I am about to live in.

CS Your mother, Victoria Thierrée Chaplin, was your creative partner on this. Is it difficult working with a family member, or does that somehow make things easier?

AT We are still not sure we are related! It is probably best to forget one is related when working together. Let it be about the work. Then, yes, it helps.

CS How did the idea for Murmurs come about and how did you go about creating it?

AT Vicky would probably mention the sight of a building about to be torn down and the stories it witnessed. I’m not sure how ideas come about and whether they define themselves little by little. It remains entertainment and involves props that are sometimes rebellious. I find that any work of theater—or any work of art for that matter—demands that something in it has to remain undefinable, not talked about, a part that wants to be left alone.

CS Would you say this is typical of how you go about creating a new character or a new work?

AT It is always a little like detective work.

CS Tell me about the title, what are the murmurs?

AT Something uttered so low that you may not hear it, a faint breeze that would carry stories of past lives, or of memories one thought forgotten. In French the title of the show is Murmures des Murs (“Walls That Whisper”). I suppose that at the beginning of time, walls were also built in order to protect sleep, to shelter dreams. They were anti-chambers to other worlds, protective and/or incarcerating.

CS Murmurs is quite physical. Is it difficult to keep up the energy level night after night?

AT I have great partners on stage: Jaime Martinez and Magnus Jakobsson. What I find challenging, in a good way, is the fragility of the work, the fact that no matter how many times I have done it, it can break on any given night.

CS Has the show changed since you first created it?

AT Yes, it is the nature of the beast. Changes may be imperceptible now, but they are there, each and every night.

CS There seems to be a sort of dream logic in place in this show, where the audience accepts, without question, some of the most improbable things.

AT I think it happens in life, too.

CS I imagine people come out of this show with varying story lines. Do they ever tell you about their own backstory for what they have experienced, and if so, are you surprised?

AT I do believe there is a story in Murmurs. It is ongoing. It is great when someone in the audience comes up with a narrative that suddenly casts a different light or brings in details and interpretations that are highly personal. It is beautiful. That and the hope that people will have a good time.

CS How would you describe your art?

AT I wouldn’t.