had to write my profession on an identity card, I’d
put down “actress” because that was when
I really came into the world.
My vocation as an actress came to me as a child and
grew with time. I was dazzled. I realized that something
important had happened to me and it didn’t worry
me in the least. It was a natural accident.
I didn’t hear the word “theatre”
until I was eight or nine. I was living in the middle
of nowhere. For my first communion, I was taken to
a party where they performed La Traviata. I can still
remember perfectly the woman who sang, and when I
saw her stretch her hands out to the fire to warm
them, I immediately thought: I want to die like that
woman, with my hands stretched out towards the fire.
Well, I should have thought “I want to sing
about death”. But I separated the two things.
That’s a vocation. When something gets stuck
inside you without your knowing any logical reason
for it. For me it was the miracle of theatre. It was
etched into me, without any surprise or questions
on my part. You figure if it’s possible, you’ll
do it. Like a violinist or a sailor.
But a vocation is nothing if you don’t cultivate
it. It has to be worked on and well grounded. The
moments of doubt are when you see how well-grounded
your vocation is. If you think “I want to work
in that profession, in that art”, then you must
think you’re capable of doing it, otherwise
why get involved in the pipe dreams and failures.
But having a vocation is also about not wanting to
listen to people’s negative statements.
At first people told me it wasn’t a real profession
because there were no retirement benefits. But that
didn’t affect me. It wasn’t what I wanted
to hear. My obstination came more from some unknown
place, some calling.
A vocation must be experienced, otherwise it’s
only a dream of a vocation. It only exists when put
into practice. You knew you were right–this
is the place where you feel best in all the world.
When your vocation really dwells within you, it gives
you an identity. I’m sure that people who have
to give up their profession are never the same afterwards.
Their vocation has been demolished, and they experience
a kind of amputation inside. Your vocation is cut
off just like part of your self is cut off.
I experienced the rare luxury of acting in masterpieces
for twenty years. The more I loved my profession and
its unexpected encounters with playwrights, the further
I felt from becoming a playwright myself. The beauty
of their writing was a barrier for me. Then I did
some rather unchallenging writing for radio, as well
as some short stories and other fiction. My talent
for writing dialogue was an auspicious sign. Without
knowing the exact destination, I felt it was a path
I could follow.
I don’t associate theatre with writing. My playwriting
doesn’t really exist in books; the words are
like something horizontal that only comes alive on
When my first play was written and performed, I didn’t
think it would go any further. I didn’t feel
that writing was my vocation, my calling. It was an
act of will on my part. Like crossing the desert with
very little water. I knew there would be many difficulties–going
from a familiar to an unfamiliar place. Who starts
writing at the age of fifty anyway? I can’t
really explain how I began writing. In fact, I think
it all started when I was less caught up in the intense
work of rehearsing, performing and touring. When I
wasn’t out on the road anymore.
What can writing transmit that acting can’t?
An actor has to be faithful to the text, to be an
instrument for the writing. An actor who writes understands
the importance of a playwright’s voice. I write
plays with that musicality in mind. I hear the lines
first, before I start writing. Actors never get tripped
up on my words or scenes.
Writing is surely the best way I’ve found not
to die–or at least not to disappear. Once I
went to a bistro called The Ephemeral–a word
I can’t stand. You only live for a moment, which
is like a great wound to me. An actor only lives until
the person who saw him perform dies–whereas
writing remains. I was really honoured to know my
work is in the Bibliothèque nationale.
Writing forced me to ask myself “What are you
worth?”. It came from being an actress. How
presumptuous–comparing yourself to playwrights
whose work you’ve always loved performing in!
One day I found a way of side-stepping the issue which
turned into a magic formula: even though you can’t
play Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony with a little
flute, you need the little flute to play Beethoven’s
Ninth Symphony. What little I’ve contributed,
I’ve contributed to the world.