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"Clews Clues" A Play About Making My Play - Act I


PROLOGUE


For getting a ton of work done, I've found there is nothing better than an artists’ residency.


You focus on only one thing: the work at hand. Not your other projects, not your five-year plan, not answering emails (well, not the silly ones).


You meet super cool artists, often from other disciplines. Cross-genre inspiration!


They usually feed you, clean your room.


What could be better than all this? All this - in a château!


Le Château de La Napoule - on France's Côte d'Azur


The residency I just completed at le Château de La Napoule was exceptional - I'm so grateful to the Foundation for letting me in!

 

First of all, It lasted a whole month - the first time I've had that much time. Sundance (UCross) was 10 days, the O’Neill about the same. My fellow residents said a month is standard, even short. Not for theatre-makers!


Second incredible thing: I got to live in the site I was writing about, to share the space (in a time warp way) with Marie and Henry Clews, whose story I was bringing to life. (full disclosure: most of us slept in the glamorous villa across the street.)


Third, I had full access to the chateau, wherever and whenever. To sit in Henry's bedroom and channel his and Marie's spirits. Play her piano. To go through their photos, read their books.


INCITING INCIDENT

(in a play, what kicks it all off)


Before I even get there, I know I want to create a “visite thêâtralisée”a combo play + guided tour. With hopes it might one day be regularly offered at the château. And I want to focus on MARIE.


Their wedding day, 1918.


There’s a lot to "theatricalize" in their story. They left behind everything they had in America – their respectable lives, her husband and two little boys – to come here so Henry could make his art in peace.


 WHY DO WE DO WHAT WE DO?

That is the "major dramatic question."

for the play, the Clews - and for myself


The REALLY dramatic question:

Can I research and write a whole play in four weeks?


ACT 1 - Week 1


I arrive with no idea what I’m going to write.

Really scary for me. Usually, I do a ton of research or have a first draft when I arrive.

Not this time.

This time, I've done almost no research.

This time, because I'm living with the spirits, I'll let them help me tell the story.

I want to be open to THEIR VOICES - to CHANNEL THIS BABY.


I want to - but can I?

Act I - Scene 1

The first morning, the Directrice tells us nothing is required of us. No "deliverables." Just be there and see what happens.

Which is lovely, so lovely.

But me, I made a vow to myself: I'm writing a whole play and performing it the last day.

I hope.

A good sign! Perhaps the spirit of Aaron Sorkin waits for me in my studio.

Marie only had a few art classes - not bad!

The major source of information about their life is Marie's Memoir. Which is problematic, since she acknowledges she left most of the bad stuff out. Even she knew she wrote the fairytale version. Tipoff: she titled it, “Once Upon A Time.”

 


So I'm going to have to make stuff up. Which makes me uncomfortable. Who am I to say what happened? Won’t I be projecting what I would do? I want to do justice to Marie and Henry, not grind my own axe.


I ask to see the archives. They say... yes! As long as I wear muslin curator's gloves.

 

The boxes are upstairs. I feel so special, going through doors that say "No Access. Personnel Only." They unlock one of the rooms. Marie's bedroom. Then Henry's. Then the library in-between, where they met every morning to download the visions in Henry’s dreams. All their fascinating books. Wow.

 

I put a box on the desk, look out to the sea. I close my eyes. Wait for a whisper, for anything.

Nope. Nothing.

Ah well. I have four weeks.


I open the boxes.

Oo. I hit treasure.



Marie in costume (her dream had been to be a professional opera singer)

Henry riding a dog (I think it's a dog?)

Henry sick. Dying. He's dropped 70 pounds, gone from 180 to 110.


He had a thing for birds. White ones. One of many mysteries.

After that, Marie goes bold. Even goes up in one of those newfangled contraptions.



I find a newspaper report of a visit from Alva Vanderbilt. I get goosebumps. Why?

This place and me, we have a lot of -

 

CRAZY COINCIDENCES


1. Henry and Marie's son, Mancha, wrote the foreword to her memoir. From Hanover, NH. The small town where I went to college. Which I’d visited just three days before I read that foreword.


2. Marie’s first husband was a real estate biggie. Wikipedia also said he built a villa called Glenmere.


Where my husband and I got married.


I'm stunned. Glenmere isn't a big destination with hundreds of events. We were the first wedding.


That night, I slept in one of their bedrooms. Perhaps it was Marie’s?


3. The main character in my show Oneida - his Happy Place is his rocking Chair. Henry goes nowhere without his. You could tell when he was arriving - by the rocker on the roof of his car.

And now -


5. The clipping about Alva. About whom I’m also writing a musical.


This railing reminds me of the one in the château.


These coincidences are starting

to seem more like

synchronicity.


DO YOU BELIEVE IN DESTINY?


Marie and Henry did.

I'm starting to.


Sc 2 - DAILY ROUTINE aka BLISS

Mornings, breakfast on the terrace. Evenings, dinner served to us in the formal dining room. We are so spoiled! Any wish we have is their command. I found Henry's rocker in the basement!


Fresh fruit, plain yogurt - and even gluten-free bread!

There are 10 of us residents (11 actually). From China, India, Nigeria, the Netherlands, Australia. Three from the U.S. One from Paris. I represent both the U.S. and France.


I’m the luckiest: I live only 25 minutes away. I can come back anytime.


Days are filled with research (for now). I'm in heaven. I always wanted to be an archaeologist.


I work everywhere – in the salon, Henry’s bedroom, in his sculpture studio, on a secret terrace.


Shhh! Don't tell anyone (ok, it's on the roof)

 

SCENE 3

In another bedroom, I find Henry's newer rocker (the one in the basement was shot).

Want to see what happens?


Am I “off my rocker,” treating a chair like a Ouija board?

Was Henry?

 

That's one question I'm trying to answer. I have lots of questions.

Why have I never heard of Henry? HIs art is amazing!

Did Henry really not care if he work was exhibited? Admired?

Did Marie not care?

What triggered Henry's "episodes"?

Was Marie fulfilled, never lonely - happy?

Every day, my quest continues – “To follow that star…no matter how hopeless, no matter how far.” Yeah, I sing Man of La Mancha (another coincidence: the first musical I saw, the first professional show I was in). Henry was obsessed with Don Quixote, the idealistic hero who dies of disillusionment, even takes the name Mancha. Then gives it to his son as well.   

 

Every day, I luxuriate in Henry's work. Astonishingly varied, invariably powerful.

Painting, sculpture, even a 200-page play called Mumbo Jumbo. 


"The Doctor." Henry is not a fan of the profession.

Yes, The Thinker's "kiki" is replaced by a skull. Too much thinking has killed his sex drive.



Marie remains my obsession. Remains a mystery. I love a mystery - don't you?


Her memoir has 15 pages about young Henry, only 5 about herself. And in the impersonal 3rd person!


She is everywhere at the château- but rather invisibly. She was the de facto architect and interior designer who turned the château into the neo-medieval fantasy it is today. But you don’t get to put your signature on a terrace or staircase, do you?

What is your story, Marie?

Marie...we're waiting...


END OF ACT I (WEEK ONE)

(stay tuned for Act II...)


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Guest
Apr 19
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

Love it, BB, and you; Go for it! <3


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Guest
Apr 18
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

WAAAHH! I am SO happy for you! (Avec un tout p'tit peu de jalousie-not gonna to lie) BUT you are such an inspiration. Relish following your creative spirit.

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Beth Blatt
Beth Blatt
Apr 19
Replying to

Thank you so much for reading and posting - and even being a bit jealous...these experiences are open to us all, we just have to keep putting it out there :)

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Guest
Apr 18
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

Keep following the star . . . and inspiring the rest of us to do the same!

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Beth Blatt
Beth Blatt
Apr 19
Replying to

Your note helps keep me on course - merci!!

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Guest
Apr 18
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

Karma is everywhere! Congrats Beth.

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Beth Blatt
Beth Blatt
Apr 19
Replying to

Indeed, karma...do you know who you were before?

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