Ensemble Acting: A Conversation with Actor Daniel Duque-Estrada
Meet the Participants
Daniel Duque-Estrada (Actor) Trinity Rep: Segismundo, Sueño; Sydney Carton, A Tale of Two Cities; Abel, Fade; Pablo Del Valle, Native Gardens; Lodovico, Othello; Alonso/King Ferdinand of Aragon, Like Sheep to Water, or Fuente Ovejuna; Lysander, A Midsummer Nights’s Dream; A Christmas Carol. Off-Broadway: WP Theater, Second Stage, PlayCo. Other Theaters: Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Dallas Theater Center (former Brierly Resident Acting Co. member), Shakespeare Dallas, Brown/Trinity Playwright’s Rep, California Shakespeare Theater, Shakespeare Santa Cruz, The Shotgun Players, Intersection for the Arts/Campo Santo, The Cutting Ball Theater, Magic Theatre, Marin Theatre Company. TV: Second Chance. Other: Daniel has been a counselor and teaching artist with Trinity Rep’s Young Actor’s Summer Institute. He is also an associate producing artist at the Magic Theater in San Francisco. Graduate of the Brown/Trinity Rep MFA Acting program; BA from UC Berkeley.
This post features Daniel Duque-Estrada. Daniel has been a resident actor at the Dallas Theater Center and at Trinity Repertory Company as well acting in two seasons at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.
You’ve worked quite a bit in regional theatre, but this is your first show in New York. How does it feel to be making your New York debut?
It feels equal parts surreal and harsh. My career path has taken me to each coast and into the middle of the country, but never New York or even LA. Real talk: New York has always scared the hell from me, so it feels invigorating to stick my head into the mouth of this beast.
Prior to acting, you wanted to be a writer, what made you initiate the transition?
Well, I became interested in writing and acting at around the same time. I’m a huge movie guy, and I remember seeing Pulp Fiction when I was way too young and impressionable, and it was the first time it wasn’t just the actors I noticed, but what they were saying. I went home that night in January of 1995 and started writing my first screenplay. But I, ultimately, am way too impatient. I think that’s why ultimately I fell hard into acting: you can’t turn things over and over in your head. At some point, the moment comes, and you have to DO something.
In an interview with American Theatre Magazine, you mentioned that your “in” to the character is through your technique. What’s specific to your technique that guides you when approaching a new character?
Every play, every character, every job is incredibly different. When I gave that interview, I was genuine, but ultimately I think I was speaking about the process I was in at that time, and what had worked best for me up to that point. But I am, I guess, an outside-in actor for the most part. Vocal technique, posture, even costuming are all the essential elements for me. It’s how I scope out the terrain I have to work in.
You have been a part of two major resident acting companies in the nation including Trinity Rep and Dallas Theater Center, what is a major lesson you learned from acting in these resident companies?
That even with a steady gig, you have to cultivate that sense of unease and restlessness that most actors, working or not, feel every day. It’s very easy to dry up and get comfortable with what is given to you. And that’s typically the way the world works. Actors are different. We have to be. And there can be a danger in tranquilizing the restlessness. It’s actually why I’m here in NY!
Regarding alien abductions, do you believe in aliens or life on other planets?
Yeah. So. I’m a huge movie fan like I said before. So I remember as a kid watching an interview with Arthur C. Clarke on a DVD of “2001: A Space Odyssey” (my favorite film, by the way) and he said something like (and I’m paraphrasing): “look up at the night sky. All of those stars are suns. And for every sun there are planets orbiting around them.” It’s something I still think about today. Of course, there must be life out there. It may have something to do with the fact that, at least for me, I find it comforting that the universe contains all kinds of life. Kinda takes the pressure off a little bit…