Charles Dullin

Charles Dullin (8 May 1885 – 11 December 1949) was a French actor, theater manager and director.

Charles Dullin
Born8 May 1885
Died11 December 1949(1949-12-11) (aged 64)
OccupationFilm director, actor


Dullin was a student of Jacques Copeau,[1]:317 whose company he joined in 1913 for one season, before rejoining from 1917-1918.[2]:134 He also trained and worked with Jacques Rouché, André Antoine and Firmin Gémier, the actor who originated the role of Ubu in Alfred Jarry's Ubu Roi.

In June 1920, Dullin began taking on students and was giving acting lessons at the Théâtre Antoine under the tutelage of Gémier. In July 1921 Dullin founded Théâtre de l'Atelier in Néronville, France, which he referred to as a "laboratory theater". He conducted auditions for the troupe in Paris, and then brought the small group of actors to Néronville, where they trained for between ten and twelve hours daily.[3] The small group of students, among them Antonin Artaud, developed into the "Atelier", Dullin's workshop for young actors. The company was organised as a commune, with Dullin looking to create 'a different attitude toward theatre' through a 'common sharing of life and work'.[3] The group eventually settled in the Théâtre Montmartre, renamed the Théâtre de l'Atelier where Dullin would remain until the beginning of World War II.

Dullin also played many roles on the screen, and used some of the money earned in these roles to support his theater. He was one of the major French actors both on the stage and the screen during the 1930s.

Acting Theory and Techniques

Dullin put a particular emphasis on mime, gymnastics, improvisation, voice production, and various exercises intended to heighten one's sensory perception. In the tradition of Copeau, Dullin emphasised respect for the text, a simplified stage décor and favored a poetic rather than a spectacular perspective on the mise-en-scène, placing the actor at the center of the performance. He forwarded a theory of the theatre of transposition, which was based in the concept of 'Enrichment': which is, '"the secret" and "the foundation" of all arts, especially dramatic arts'.[2]:145

Dullin's goal when he created this theater, which also served as a school for actors, was to create the "complete actor":

to form actors with a general culture, which they so often lack; to inculcate them from the very beginning with solid principles of actors' techniques: good diction, physical training; to expand their means of expression to include dance and pantomime; in one word, to form the complete actor.[3]:346

The actor was to get in tune with "La Voix du Monde" (the voice of the world), by making contact with one's surroundings, this would then enable the actor to get in tune with his true voice, "Voix de Soi-Même" (the voice of oneself), with which he is to express himself on stage.

In his seminars, Dullin strongly emphasized that his actors must "see before describing, hear before answering...and feel before trying to express himself", often using bells, the sound of footsteps, and masks as preparation.[3]:347 The actors were encouraged to forget the weight of their bodies, while using them more than their faces to express themselves, often wearing a full or half mask.[3]:347

He aimed to create a 'total spectacle' in which the world of the stage was 'more expressive than reality'.[4] Dullin drew heavily on East Asian theatre techniques, and particularly Japanese theatre,[2]:135 and his training was primarily based around improvisations.[3]

Notable students

Students of Charles Dullin included Pascale de Boysson, Antonin Artaud, Jean-Louis Barrault, Juozas Miltinis, Étienne Decroux, Juran Hisao and Marcel Marceau.[5]

Notable productions

As Director

As actor


  1. Leabhart, Thomas (2004). "Jacques Copeau, Etienne Decroux, and the 'Flower of Noh'". New Theatre Quarterly. 20 (4): 315–330. doi:10.1017/S0266464X04000211. ISSN 0266-464X.
  2. Tian, Min (2018-11-27). The Use of Asian Theatre for Modern Western Theatre: The Displaced Mirror. Springer. ISBN 9783319971780.
  3. Deak, Frantisek (1977). "Antonin Artaud and Charles Dullin: Artaud's Apprenticeship in Theatre". Educational Theatre Journal. 29 (3): 346. doi:10.2307/3206180. JSTOR 3206180.
  4. Cited in Innes, Christopher (1984). Holy Theatre: Ritual and the Avant Garde. CUP Archive. p. 110. ISBN 9780521269438.
  5. Murray, Simon (2003). Jacques Lecoq. London, New York: Routledge.
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