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Clews Clues - Act II (Week 2)

Updated: Apr 17

RECAP

For my month-long artists’ residency at le Château de La Napoule, I’ve made a vow:



 To finish a first draft 

of a visite théâtralisée 

(a combo play/guided tour)

about Marie and Henry Clews, the chatelains of the château

and present it at the end

of the residency.

 

CAST OF CHARACTERS:

Henry - the artist, the genius. Unrecognized. Does he care?

Marie - his life support, his partner, dreamed of being an artist - a singer - herself. Is she “Unsung.” Does she care?

Mancha – their son. Mostly offstage. So far. He cares.

 


MAJOR DRAMATIC QUESTION (MDQ - crucial in a play – we all love suspense)


What’s going to happen -

  • to the Clews?

  • to me? Trying to write this piece in only a month - will I finish? Will it be good?


I don’t have one single, big MDQ yet for Marie and Henry.

Though I do have lots of little questions:

 

  • Will Henry agree to show his work again, after debilitating rejection in the US?

  • Will Marie be able continue to lift him out of his bouts of depression?

  • Will they always be able to keep their home safe? (it’s been destroyed 8 times)

 

And the biggest question of all, for us all:

 

WHY DO WE DO WHAT WE DO?

For family, money, power, fame, love?

 

The smallest, weirdest question:

            Why are they so into birds? And only white ones?


And my most personal question:


  • Will I be able to channel their voices?Tell their story and not project mine? Work smarter not harder for once?

Step away from the research and, for once, be really creative?

 

Henry in hospital. Note the birds.


ACT II, SCENE 1 - SUNRISE


As I enter week 2, I am relaxed. I have time to play archaeologist, digging for Clews Clues.

But soon, I will have to start writing. Eek.


I start each day at sunrise, excited to get going. I sit at the huge dining room table in the Villa (it seats 16), preparing to take that leap.

 

SCENE 2 - DAILY DIGGING

I continue to raid the château for hints about who Marie and Henry are.

 

1. The Plaster Room

In the basement. Where Henry’s practice statues live. He gave himself permission to experiment.

Note to self: I can experiment, too – with this play. This residency is my plaster room.




Why on one leg?

 

2. Henry’s Studio

I spend hours sitting in this room. Quietly absorbing. Though my mind goes a mile a minute.


What the heck is this base for the Thinker statue about? All 4 major statues stand on one leg. A flamingo reference (that bird thing)? A yoga pose? And all the other figures - part animal, many gruesome, some scary.


Man or woman? Breasts or weapons?



3. The Garden

I'm happy to see Marie is more visible here, only her initials on various features, not the usual shared-credit HM (Henry Marie)or simply an H (Henry).


Is it just me who cares so much about getting credit? Did she? Do You?


Yes, that is an elephant. Made out of tires. By another artistic resident.





4. Mumbo Jumbo


Henry wrote a humongous play, 200 pages of ranting - anti-feminist, anti-science, anti-democracy, anti-semitic.

Whoa.


            Did he really mean all this?

Or was he being a "provocateur"?

            Did Marie agree with is all?

            Would he be cancelled today?

 


 

And perhaps my most intriguing discovery


5. The Big Book of ACCOLADES


It's the size of a large paving stone, about the same weight. It was published to go with an exhibition of Henry's work in Paris.

Yes! He finally has an exposition. (though not until 22 years after his death)

AND there are five enormous essays by the most respected critics of the time -


PRAISING HENRY TO THE HEAVENS


I'm so sad for Henry. He didn't live to experience this.


A cynical part of me wonders:

Did Marie pay these famous people for their applause?

A MYSTERY...


SCENE 3 – B-STORY (aka DIGRESSIONS/DETOURS)

Definition:

  • a parallel story to the main action

  • offers unexpected learning for the main characters

 

Normally, I'd work everyday, 10 hours a day.


But since I’m in a very special place, with very special people and some special events lined up – and since it’s only Week 2 - I  allow myself time off for -

 

1. PARIS

A chorus from AAWE (American Assocation of Women in Europe) are singing the anthem I wrote for UN Women. I make a 36-hour trip up for the performance.


Bonus: on the trip back, my train car is taken over by the Nice rugby team. My seatmate is more mountain than man. Turns out he’s the new head coach!

 

2. PEOPLE

We take WALKS, solo and group. Raeden Richardson, our Aussie novelist, discovers a path to the top of Mont San Peyre.


Eugénie Foucaud, Chun Yu, Lanie Gannon, Sonali Bhagchandani, Adey Omotade (photo credit); back row Raeden Richardson and me


Chun from SF and China cooks us a CHINESE FEAST



KP Nadia, Raeden, Chun, Sive Kelliher, NInette Koning, me Raeden, Ninette, Lanie, me, Sive, Chun - & the ghosts of Marie/Henry

 

3. FIELD TRIP!

To the legendary Fondation Maeght in St Paul de Vence.

I LOVE museums. They take me out of words and into images. Unblock me.


This is my favorite piece there. Jean Boirot calls himself a Word Thief - me, too! EPIPHANY: maybe I can start to use images more in my work?


DO YOU GET EPIPHANIES in odd places, too?


More interesting than the art itself -

Different artists like different things.

 


EPIPHANY 2: Art is subjective. Why do we let critics decide for us? And ruin people’s careers – and lives? MY PLAY CAN BE ABOUT THIS, TOO.

 

Henry was skewered by US critics early on. His work was social commentary. He turned on his own bourgeois class, on journalists.


HENRY decided never to show his work again.


He said he didn’t care about fame.

Really?

 

Fame. Talent. Legacy.

These matter to me (SAD but true).


DO THEY MATTER TO YOU?

(aka why do we do what we do?

one of my MDQ's)


Since this topic is very "hot" for me, that's where I need to go.


SCENE 4 - ACTIONS


The audience wants them.

Something needs to happen.

By the end of Week Two – the half-way point -

I need to start taking action, too.

But I have no idea where I’m going yet.

Just start. Leap.


DECISIONS!

Make some, already. I can change them.

 

  • GROUP HUM

I’ll start with an audience “Hum.” It’s weird. It creates a group vibe. It’s interactive. It’s worth a try.

 

  • TREASURE MAP

The château gives one to the kids. I’ll make one for adults. They’ll hunt for Clews Clues. No idea where the hunt will lead. No idea. But it’s weird and interactive and fun. Fun is good.

 

  • JOY

Not the emotion. A character. A tour guide. I created her for a piece I wrote and performed in Paris. Worked great.


Joy lets me comment on the characters. And I know who she is, so it’s easy.



SONG

I’ll have at least one. Music adds variety, and Marie wanted to sing.


Lightbulb: I'll use existing, public domain music and write lyrics to them. I don't have time to collaborate (is that an excuse? Am I afraid of getting into bed with a wrong composer - again?)


Lightbulb 2: I’ll let Henry’s creatures sing to him in the studio.





END OF ACT II (Week 2)

I'm still feeling good – but it’s time to start writing, already!


Though Marie and Henry still haven’t “talked” to me…


I DON'T WANT TO MAKE UP THE WRONG STORY

TO DO THEM AN INJUSTICE



I’ll keep listening.

Will they talk to me?

That's my Major Dramatic Question...



That huge forehead! The 1st thing Marie notices him.







Marie is indeed a legendary beauty...

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