"The Breath of Creation" - creating the role of the ragpicker in The Madwoman of Chaillot by Jean Giraudoux

Material Information

"The Breath of Creation" - creating the role of the ragpicker in The Madwoman of Chaillot by Jean Giraudoux
Schultz, Russell Dean
Place of Publication:
Gainesville, Fla.
College of Fine Arts, University of Florida
Publication Date:
Physical Description:
Project in lieu of thesis


Subjects / Keywords:
Absurdism ( jstor )
Acting ( jstor )
Black markets ( jstor )
Human back ( jstor )
Nazism ( jstor )
Ragpickers ( jstor )
Rehearsal ( jstor )
Theater ( jstor )
War ( jstor )
Wheelchairs ( jstor )


From Friday, March 18 through Sunday, March 27 2011 I was privileged to portray the role of the Ragpicker in Jean Giraudoux’s The Madwoman of Chaillot. The production was included in The University of Florida’s 2010-2011 season. My approach began with a comprehensive analysis of the circumstances that gave rise to the play, mainly the Nazi occupation of Paris in the early 1940’s. I researched the original production as well as the originator of the role, Louis Jouvet. Once I had identified the genre most suitable to the text I began to focus on the language as the primary theatrical element. After using the Lessac vocal technique to establish rhythmic, consonant, structural and tonal opportunities, I began creating a physicality that aided in presenting the piece metaphorically. I applied the Alexander Technique to aid in the most efficient use of my body and breathing, which presented a challenge due to the limitations imposed by the use of a wheelchair for the role.
General Note:
Theatre terminal project

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Source Institution:
University of Florida Institutional Repository
Holding Location:
University of Florida
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All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier:
889336150 ( OCLC )
32933211 ( ALEPH )


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2 Russell Dean Schultz


3 To my beautiful wife, Deidre and tw o great children, Grayson and Aven.


4ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS I wish to thank several people who have helped my on this journey, including Dr. Mikell Pinkney, Dr. Judith Williams, Professo r Tiza Garland and Dr. Charlie Mitchell. Thank you also to Kathy Sarra for her inva luable insight in addressing the physical demands of this production; Dr. Ralf Remsha rdt for his unfailing attention to detail and impeccably demanding standards; Tim Altmeyer for one of the most fun experiences of my career; Dr. David Young for his sense of hum or and energy and a special thank you to my good friend, Professor Yanci Bukovec for his honesty, wit and dedication. Thank you all for believing in me. Finally, thank you to Louis Jouvet for giving me the gift of inspiration.






7Abstract of Performance in Lieu of Thesis Presented to the College of Fine Ar ts of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Master of Fine Arts Theatre THE BREATH OF CREATIONCREATING THE ROLE OF THE RAGPICKER IN THE MADWOMAN OF CHAILLOT BY JEAN GIRAUDOUX By Russell Dean Schultz May 2011 Chair: Ralf Remshardt Major: Theatre From Friday, March 18 through Sunday, March 27 2011 I was privileged to portray the role of the Ragpicker in Jean Giraudouxs The Madwoman of Chaillot. The production was included in The University of Floridas 2010-2011 season. My approach began with a comprehensive analysis of the circumstances that gave rise to the play, mainly the N azi occupation of Paris in the early 1940s. I researched the original production as we ll as the originator of the role, Louis Jouvet. Once I had identified the genre mo st suitable to the te xt I began to focus on the language as the primary theatrical element. After using the Lessac vocal technique to estab lish rhythmic, consonant, struct ural and tonal opportunities, I began creating a physicality that aided in presenting the piece metaphorically. I applied the Alexander Technique to aid in the most efficient use of my body and breathing, which presented a challenge due to the limitations imposed by the use of a wheelchair for the role.


8CHAPTER ONE INTRODUCTION I first heard of The Madwoman of Chaillot in my inaugural year as a graduate student in the University of Floridas Pr ofessional Actor Training Program. My voice professor, Yanci Bukovec, had expressed on numer ous occasions his desire to direct this production. He encouraged us to read the sc ript and to submit the appropriate forms to the school that would bring it in front of the Play Sel ection Committee. Professor Bukovec assured us that there were roles for all of the graduates, including some that would challenge us in new ways. He explaine d that the play, written in the early 1940s, bore a surprising similarity to current even ts, namely the explo itation of a class of citizens by an economically powerful elite. Se veral large organizations had just received significant financial aid from the federal government in 2008 including Bear Stearns, Fannie Mae/Freddy Mac, American Interna tional Group (A.I.G), Bank of America and Citigroup. The vagabonds in The Madwoman of Chaillot reflect the frustrations of the American people, who were quite understandably outraged not only by the federal bailout, but also because of the lack of significant effort to curtail future exploitation or the punishment of executives who litera lly stole billions of dollars. The Madwoman of Chaillot was formally placed on the production schedule in the spring of 2010. My graduate advisor, Dr. Mikell Pinkney, informed me that I should select three plays, in order of preference, in which to perform my thesis role. After some consideration, I selected Madwoman. I did not, however, have a voice in the selection of the specific role I would be playing. I had spoken to Professor Bukovec previously about


9my interest in The President, The Baron a nd The Ragpicker, all of whom I felt I some affection towards. It was The Ragpicker, though, that ultimately began to consume my thoughts. There was something about The Ragpick ers ability to be both in the action yet simultaneously just outside. I found the re lationship between The Ragpicker and The Countess to be especially interesting. Th e Ragpicker functions mostly as exposition, chronicling the events that ga ve rise to the exploitation. While he is described as a former pitchman in the play, he does not c onvince any of the char acters to actually do anything. He merely provides background and then disappears again. The second act sees the Ragpicker aske d to embody the very same people he loathes, and I again asked myself why this was. At this po int I had no answers, but I was fascinated by exploring the possibilities I again spoke to Professor Bukovec and expressed my interest in The Ragpicker. In May of 2010, I was informed that I would be playing The Ragpicker as my thesis role. I was excited to work with Professor Bukovec, himself a disciple of the French theatrical tradition, and looked forwar d to working on a production that is rarely performed in America. This work details my journey with The Madwoman of Chaillot, from the textual work on the script, th rough my pre-rehearsal period, into formal rehearsals and finally opening w eek. It will also describe several acting techniques that I used for the first time and the results of thos e techniques both in the performance and beyond. While the production did not always take the charted course, I was grateful for the experience and could not have asked for a better way to conclude my University of Florida career.


10CHAPTER 2 TEXTUAL ANALYSIS Part One: Historical Context In his 1968 article Some Polit ical Implications of the Madwoman of Chaillot Robert Cohen argues that the imagery of the script is enti rely a nation at war. The pimps are the invaders, their takeover of Paris has been an invasion; they are of another race. (Cohen 213). It is war and the resultant pervas iveness of fractured morality and encroaching totalitarianism th at serve as both the genesis for and the warning against the ev ils of a technological, mechan ized society (Cohen 217). It is difficult to know with any cer tainty when Giraudoux began his work on The Madwoman of Chaillot but the dark ambience had certa inly been felt both before and during the invasion. Marcel Reboussin cont ends that the pre-war years were nightmarish with the might of Germany. constantly growing while nothing seemed capable of rousing the western nations out of their lethargy (Reboussin 12). Germany invaded France in May of 1940 with clinical precision. Perhaps one of the more insidious effect s of the Nazi invasion was the emergence of parallel markets in the wa ke of food rationing implemented by the French government. In Food Rationing and the Black Market in France (1940-1944), Kenneth Mour maintains that the well-intentioned sanctions, designed to ameliorate shortages and ensure equitable distribution, actually had the inverse effect, giving ri se to what became known as the black market. Mour rightly not es that the restricti ons placed on the food


11supply mattered less than the to tal incompetence of a single st ate agency to adequately manage the resources: The success of the black market seemed to prove that poor administration and official corruption, not shortages, explained the inadequacy of official rations. Rather than solidarity and a sense of shared sacrifice in the face of hardship, food shortages and the poor administration of food supply increased suspicions and fears, deepening the animosities and social divisionbetween those rich enough to buy on the black market and eat in the black market restaurantsand be tween those with connections to alternative networks of supply and those who had to rely on official sanctions (Mour 279). The agents of these alternative networ ks began operating almost immediately. By November of 1940, the black market was organized, and operating fully (Walter 97). The success of the black market triggere d other alternative markets, and by January 1941 virtually everything to do with daily lif e -food, clothes, shoes and so on -was rationed, and the population found itself under the rigid control of the municipal services (Walter 81). Giraudoux eventually witnessed the blatant exploi tation in broad daylight as the subversive element of these markets was removed and the brokers emerged from the shadows. It is true that the French impleme nted food rationing, but it is also true that the occupying Nazi forces took full advantage of their dominance, en tering into special agreements with French producers that secu red rationed goods that were unavailable to the populace at large without paying exorbitant prices.


12 And it is these brokers, or pimps as Giraudoux would eventually call them, that serve as the target of his ire and condemnation. The Ragpicker (Giraudouxs voice in the play) weaves a tale of invaders who mechanica lly and surgically insert themselves into Parisian society and scuttl e the actual production of goods and services and seek to profit exponentially by existing mere ly as the beneficiaries of the willful and malignant manipulation of intangible economic factors. Parisian newspapers of the time chronicle the scarcity of vegetables, with cabbages being among the most scarce; the nonchalant reaction of a local policeman who for six months had witnessed two sisters selling un-rationed thread and cotton and who to ld a local newspaperman that his job was traffic control, not the black market; two peopl e almost speaking in code to each other as the newcomer tears a corner off the paper ta ble cloth and writes some mysterious figures on it while the fat man pulls a thick wa d of 5,000-franc notes out of his inside pocket (Walter 101). These literal accounts echo almost precisely the Ragpickers metaphorical translation and serve as preced ents to the prevailing atmosphere of The Madwoman. The willful intrusion of the natives by a race who never hurry or work but make a lot of money, these racketeers, is the primary focus of Giraudouxs work (Reboussin 15). Giraudoux witnessed the deple tion of French morale and pride in one of the darkest times in French history. In his bi ography of Giraudoux, Laurent La Sage writes: What Giraudoux feared, even though at times he appeared unwilling to admit it even to himself, was a progressive sapping of the fibe r of humanity through which in the end the whole value and beauty of life should disa ppear (La Sage 141). Giraudoux expressed his concern to his dear friend and collaborator Louis Jouvet, insisti ng that Jouvet himself


13take the part of the Ragpicker. Despit e the fact that Jouvet had been Giraudouxs theatrical jumeau (twin) for decades, this play woul d prove to be one of the greatest challenges of his career.


14Part Two: Developing The Madwoman of Chaillot Louis Jouvet had fled Paris in 1940, shortly after the Nazi invasion. He travelled to Switzerland, South America and North Ameri ca, eventually return ing to Paris in 1945, after the liberation. Jouvet had experienced unparalleled succe ss prior to the war, but two critical factors undeniably influenced his re turn: the re-emergence to a Paris unalterably changed by a war and the death of Giraudoux just a year earlier. Left alone to both direct and star in his collaborators final pl ay, Jouvet decided to honor his partner by implementing the same rehearsal style he had employed for decades. In her biography of Jouvet, Bettina Lie bowitz Knapp notes that, Many critics have called Jouvet a classicist because his work bore the stamp of clarity, order and simplicity (Knapp 220). Indeed, Jouvets own technique of text exploration was outlined by him and Giraudoux, who agreed that the actors breathing must put oneself on par with the poet who wrote it, by imitati ng his respiration which seeks to identify itself with the breath of creation (Kna pp 212). Jouvets vocal technique, and the technique he asked his actors to embody, seemed to be wholly unique: The actors had to accept the discipline of learning a distinctly new style. Thei r voices were trained as to seem akin to musical instruments making exquisite verbal music. During the long rehearsals, Jouvet would sit next to Gi raudoux, tensely watching the proceedings. Characteristically, he would remark to one of the actors, Youre tryi ng to hard. Simply speak your lines, dont act them out (Knapp 130). Yet even with his trademark stamp on the production, Jouvet remained uncertain and tenuous about how Madwoman would be received. The production suffered greatly by the scarcity of resources in post-war Paris, and Jouvet himself appealed to the publ ic at large for clothing suitable to the


15eccentric characters in the play and relied h eavily on a grant from the Ministry of Fine Arts to finance the produ ction (La Sage 143). The first production of the Madwoman of Chaillot was presented on December 19, 1945 at the Thtre de lAthne. To say the production was a success would be an understatement. One critic of the time, Jean-Jacques Gautier, wrote that he feared Giraudoux might seem old fashioned to us. Bu t not in the least! He remains a miracle of intelligence, he is inimitable (La Sage 144) The United States premiere a year later garnered similar success, earning a Tony Award for Marguerite Moreno as the Madwoman. Writing in the New York Times in 1949, critic Brooks Atkinson praised the production, calling it, crack-brain ed, original and delightful (Atkinson xi), but warned that American audiences might be less recept ive, adding that American theatergoers are less accustomed than French theatergoers to listening with relaxed appreciation to the discursions of an author who likes to turn a phrase and toy with ideas for purposes of sociability. Perhaps the exp ectations have changed. A recen t production in Australia was assailed by the critics who called it panto, adding that it disappoints on so many levels its difficult to know where to begin (Woodhead 17).


16Part Three: Stylistic Demands If a contemporary production of The Madwoman of Chaillot fails when it attempts to incorporate more melodramatic, raucous elements into the production, the actors clubbing the witticism to deat h before waiting for laughs that, understandably, never come (Woodhead 17), which classification suffices to provide some context from whence to begin an assessment? Arguably, Madwoman contains elements of expressioni sm in that it is a theatrical interpretation on the monstrosities of wartime Europe. The characters are allegorical (the Juggler, the Street Singer, the Broker, the President, etc.) a nd the imagery is dream-like, distorted and even nightmarish. Yet Giraudouxs play cannot be classified as wholly expressionistic -human sufferi ng is largely absent from the play, as are the more violently grotesque elements of the classic expressionist cannon. The play is strangely optimistic, anticipating the actual liberation of France in 1945. The language is close to naturalistic and free from the lengthy speeches th at characterize other plays strictly in the expressionist camp. But where Madwoman seems to close one genre, it perhaps foreshadows another. The language and imagery seem to place The Madwoman of Chaillot squarely in the realm of absurdism, yet Martin Ess lin, who coined the phrase, disagrees: A similar sense of the senselessness of life is, of the inevitable devaluation ideals, purity and purpose, is also th e theme of much of the work of dramatists like Giraudoux, Anoulih, Salacrou, Sarte, and Camus himself. Yet these writers differ from the dramatists of the Absurd in an important


17respect: they present thei r sense of the irrationalit y of the human condition in the form of highly lucid and logi cally constructed reasoning, while the Theatre of the Absurd strives to expr ess its sense of the senselessness of the human condition and the inadequacy of the rational approach by the open abandonment of rational devices and discursive thought. (Esslin 24) Still, absurdism most closely fits the Madwoman of Chaillot and it is in this genre that the play seems to function most successfully Each of the characters have a logic all their own, albeit they are, at times, speaki ng nonsense. The Ragpicker is convinced that garbage is a delicacy; the Madwomen ac knowledge freely and presumptively that inanimate objects speak, but warn that one must be discerning in accepting the advice they dispense. Dickie, Constances pet, may be deceased, but they all agree that his memory, and thus his presence sh ould be held sacrosanct. For that reason, the play seems to fail when the production attempts to ignore the absurdist elements, the sense of play and fant asy, and delve into the realm of the didactic, reinforcing instead its preconceived notions as a satire of capita lism. Robert Cohen argues, in fact, that this is far from the point of the play (213) and there is evidence in the character of the Ragpicker to support this claim. The Ragpicker functions as the symbol of the lost French economy. He laments the fact that nothing is free anymore to sell itself or give itself away. He bemoans the end of free enterprise in the world, yet takes care to avoid advocating an alternative form economic s uperstructure. There can be no question that what Giraudoux detested was finance capitalism, the replacement of the free exchange of goods and services with an overly restrictive soci ety which gave rise


18to exploitive parallel markets. Productions that mug, that seek to didactically demonstrate the evils of capitalism as a system seem to face the most severe criticism. In any case, the whimsical and fanciful elements of Madwoman are what delighted audiences in Paris. The triumpha nt return of Jean Giraudoux and Louis Jouvet and the style they created kept audiences coming back, making Madwoman the longest running play in Jouvets career. Identification of the cha llenges that plagued other productions, however, was but the beginning of my journey with this great piece of modern French theatre. In order to overc ome these challenges, I decided to replicate Jouvets approach, focusing first on Giraudoux s language to discover for myself the breath of creation.


19CHAPTER 3 PRE-REHEARSAL ANALYSIS My work on The Madwoman of Chaillot began in earnest in August of 2010 while I was in Dallas, Texas working at the WaterT ower Theatre in partial fulfillment of my graduate degree requirements. Prior to my a rrival in Dallas, I had amassed a dozen or so books, articles, and materials relating to the play, Giraudoux, Jouvet and the occupation of Paris by the Nazis in the early years of World War II. Discovering the breath of creation be gan with a detailed reading of the accumulated material. I began to understand more fully the circumstances that pervaded Giraudouxs thoughts, and found corroborating ev idence in newspaper articles of the time. The imagistic origins were not only pronounced, but also so eloquently documented that I often thought that Giraudoux merely had to tr anscribe the headlines of the day into poetical cohesion to properly express the sentiment. Two years ago, Dr. Mikell Pinkney had revealed in one of our classes that he re -types scripts, word for word, into his word processor. He believed that the sequence of events, the plays rising and falling action, emerged more clearly when one began to think as the author, finding the precise sequence of words to succinctly expre ss the authors intent. I had since used Dr. Pinkneys approach for all of my work, and when I began to re-type the script for Madwoman, the metaphorical parallels were staggering. I began to document first-hand accounts and compare them to corresponding lines from the play. I also noted with some surprise that while Giraudouxs words were seemingly taken from the headlines of the da y, Jouvet also had a personal distaste with


20the pimps of the world despite the fact th at he himself was not in Paris during the plays conception. In 1933, Jouvet, along with several other contemporary directors, had been accused by contemporary critics of sp eculating on their art, using the theatre purely as a means of financial aggrandizement. Years later, Jouvet would hear accounts of the Nazi domination of Fran ces cultural institutions, as well as the co-opting of many well known actors and actresses who were lure d into creating propaganda sympathetic to the Nazi cause. I myself began to feel Jouvets abhorrence at both the accusations laid against him in the 1930s and the subsequent annihilation of the spirit of his fellow actors. As I typed the words into my computer, I could physic ally feel my breathing begin to change, infused with the images and weight of the wo rds. Working in this way forced me to carefully consider why each word was chose n, how one word logically or imagistically followed the next. It also allowed me to perf ectly formulate images in my mind that were both concrete and animated. I believed I wa s closer to discovering the creative breath that Jouvet had described, but I also reali zed that breath is mere ly the beginning. Armed with a synergistic alliance with the breat h, I began to explore the language. As noted, The Madwoman of Chaillot is most closely associated with the genre of absurdism. I re-familiarized myself with the performance demands of this genre by examining the book Acting with Style by John Harrop and Sabin Epstein. Since the play does not universally conform to the style, how ever, my intention was merely to consider those absurdist elements that would provide a point of departure from which to analyze the text, and not attempt to incorporate aspe cts that were clearly more pronounced in the works of Beckett and Ionesco, for example.


21 Harrop and Epstein note that [a]bs urd drama is not concerned with the representation of events, the tell ing of a story, or the depictio n of a character as much as it is the presentation of individuals within a situation in such a way as to communicate their experience or existence. The plays tend to be many-layered poetic images that have be intuited in depth rather th an rationally followed through a linear development in time (Harrop 270). From pimps to the cabbages, from mannequins to faceless aliens, there are no shortages of poetic images in the Ragpicker s speeches. I noted that each of these images would have to be explored vocally. Traditionally, the use of silences has also been a defining lingui stic characteristic of absurdism, yet the Ragpickers speeches contain no such scripted pauses. Harrop explains The silences both make the audi ence aware of infinity and point to where language is useless in expressing the ultimate feeling (Harrop 272). At this point, I had not explored the text vocally, so I made anot her note to look very closely at the language to determine if my addition of strategic silenc es would indeed aid in the rhythmic flow or be a distraction. Finally, the linguistic demands in the ab surdist style dictate that, language is used to undercut sentiment, to give an ironic edge to the situation and prevent indulgence in pathos (Harrop 272). I immediately recalled Giraudouxs advice to his actors; advising them to speak the lines, not act them out. I identified se veral opportunities for indulgence, marking the landmines to be dea lt with when I began working on the text. While in Dallas at the WaterTower Theat re, I had the opportunity to work on my own material in the black box. Typically, I sp ent about an hour after work and before


22performances of Our Town working vocally on the text of the play. I utilized the Lessac Vocal Technique in scoring my script (see Appendix A). This technique consists of marking the consonant, tonal, structural a nd linking opportunities found in the text. The importance of this work in th e initial stages of the process cannot be underestimated. Essentially, identifying these opportunities in the language provides the actor with interpretive opportunities. Using the markings, I said each word out loud, paying specific attention to how each word felt, not sounded. This particular te chnique was practiced over the course of several years of training, and aids considerably in allowing me the opportunity to explore the words and images physically and mentally. Once each word was explored in this manner, I began to rec ite groups of words together. For example, I would say the first word of my line, There, and then the second word, was. I would repeat just these two words until I felt they could be explored no further and then added the next two words a time (for the exercise I skipped articles unl ess I felt they added important information to the line; here, it did not). Working this way gave me the opportunity to explore the valu e of the words without worrying about meaning, rhythm or context at this point. Equa lly, it allowed me the time to find the connections between images; to find a concrete way of speaking poe tically. As I explored the words and their sequence, I discovered ways to memorize the li nes imagistically, not by rote with drilllike discipline. The end of one line, It woul d be like deceiving me with my big toe, fed into my subsequent line, I am incapable of jealousy by way of an image of a toe with gangrene. Since green is considered to be th e color of envy, I simply substituted one vice, envy, with a synonym and found the connection between the lines. I worked this way through most of the script, finding the connectio ns in images unique to my linguistic and


23vocal explorations. This was indeed a timeconsuming process, but I knew I had time to explore the text this way and I also deemed it a valuable exercise as part of my artistic growth. In examining the completed vocal score, I noticed that many lines could be linked using the Lessac Technique. In this techniqu e, a word ending in a consonant that is immediately followed by a word beginning w ith a vowel can be linked, requiring no pause, breath or disruption of rhythm from one word to the next. Linking opportunities are also available when a word ends with a consonant and begins with the same consonant. I had several linking opportunities in my lines (see Appendix A) and therefore was able to estab lish a rhythm. However, in establishing this rhythm, I discovered that the silences a nd pauses inherent in the absu rdist realm might be difficult to employ. Instead of adding elements that we re not written in the script, I decided to trust the language and th e director to tell me when paus es or silences could be adopted and to what effect. Overindulgence in the language, especially poetry, is a tempting trap for actors. Perhaps it was the coincidence of performing Our Town in which the director told the cast not to indulge in sentimentality, or Giraudouxs own words or a combination of both, but I knew that indulgence was not going to be part of my performance. The Ragpicker is described as being a former pitchman, yet I did not know what to do initially with this information. Lines that, upon first readi ng, dripped with an air of nostalgia were immediately marked, such as, There was a time when old clothes were as good as new and There was a time when garbage was a pleasure. These lines, at first, read sentimentally yet I was determined not interpret them as such. The Ragpicker is not lost


24in the memory of a bygone era, I decided, ra ther he is simply making an observation about the state of organic goods in the world at the time. The three months I had spent working on th e text proved invaluable. I was able to take my time and explore the text vocall y, focusing not on the sound, but the resonating areas of my face and body where the vibrations occurred. The resultant images in my mind fostered the solidification of the lin es, which led me through the text image by image. I believed I was ready to return to The University of Florida with a strong grasp of the play and eager to begin working. I was not prepared for what awaited me on my return.


25CHAPTER 4 REHEARSAL No, Countess, the people are not the same. The people are different. -The Ragpicker I received a phone call from the director, Yanci Bukovec, shortly before Thanksgiving 2010. He informed me that he had decided to leave the production for personal reasons. He mentioned that he had approached several faculty members in the department, yet none had decided to accept th e directing duties. I was disappointed, not only because I felt I had missed a chance to work with a master of this style, but also because this would be my last show at the University and I would be performing without my friend and collaborator. My relationship with Yanci had been akin to that of Giraudoux and Jouvet, and I was excited to read that their process mirrored my work with Yanci, especially in our previous collaboration, Oedipus the King I knew, however, that the project would continue, and I was looking forward to working with whoever was named as Yancis replacement. It was a great relief to hear that Tim Altmeyer was named as Yancis successor. I had never worked with Tim before, his shows always coming on the heels of others that I was involved in, but after taki ng his Acting IV class the previous year, I knew the show would be energetic and engaging. Our first rehearsal took place on February 7, 2011. Tim began by talking about his concept for the play. He identified severa l areas that he wished to explore in our


26production: the hunger for material possessions versus those who lack such a need and the fabricated elements of society versus the organic and real and the consequences for so wholly adopting a mechanized society (which was also the subject of Robert Cohens article). The following night we met with th e designers. My first thought was that they were all so young, but I was quickly relieved to see that their con cepts and ideas were firmly rooted in the script and that they had all thought very car efully about each and every piece of their contributions. Tim decided to do a full run-through of the play on the first day of rehearsal. Before the run began, I approached Tim about the possibility of placing the Ragpicker in a wheelchair. This idea had developed slowly ou t of my work the previous fall in Dallas. The characters in Madwoman are allegorical, and as suc h, I believed the best way to represent the crippled French economy was to place the character in a wheelchair. Tim readily embraced the idea, and I immediately s ecured a chair from the properties room at the University. The wheelchair was quite old, with a vinyl seat and chair back. The wheels were slightly rusted and it lacked f ootrests. I asked our stage manager, Kimberly Wistedt, if the chair could be modified to add two saddl ebags and footrests, as well as a pillow for both the seat and the back. I decided to work with the chair for the remainder of the week, and I was informed that the modificat ions would be completed by the following Monday. The first stumble-through was a challenge. I found it difficult to balance my book on my knees and successfully navigate the stage in the wheelchair at the same time, a


27problem that was heightened by the lack of the footrests. I found the chair to be uncomfortable in both the seat and the back, and even worse, the material did not provide any support for my hips or lumbar area, which forced me into a semi-fetal position while seated, my knees inching closer to my ches t as the night progressed. This adversely affected my breathing, which threatened the voc al work I had so carefully prepared. Tim suggested using crutches instea d, but I was determined not to allow the limitations of the chair to derail the work, so I decided to keep working, addi ng a plywood base to the list of modifications to see if the additional s upport would allow me to breathe easier. I sought the aid of Kathy Sarra, a specialist in the Alexander Te chnique to assist me in working from a confined position. Ms. Sarra attended the February 17 rehearsal and I spoke to her in class about my breat hing difficulties. She suggested that more support would indeed be benefici al, and also advised me to find release in my hips and back by working diagonally. For example, I placed my right forearm on the armrest of the chair and released the tension in my right hip joint, extending that release across my chest and up to my left shoulder. I released in the same position on opposite sides when my left forearm came to rest. As a result of lengthening diagonally my rib cage was more free to expand three-dimensionally as my back came off the back of the chair slightly. Had I not found this release in my body, I believe I would have had to abandon the chair for the sake of the performance. Eventually, I found that I was quite easily able to navigate using the chair, so much that it became automatic. It took me well into tech week, however, to finally find the positions in the wheelchair that allowe d me the most lung capacity to get the lines out. In addition to employing the Alexande r Technique, I also found that slowing down


28the line delivery aided in this process. I had focused so much on the fluidity of the language that I was unnecessarily speeding up in places where Tim felt I could take more time. Once I was able to c ontrol the rate at which I spoke, I found more opportunities to breath deeper. Now that I was more comfortable in the chair from a technique standpoint, I began to investigate how I would actually trav erse the space in the wheelchair. Harrop and Epstein opine that one of the performan ce demands of playing postrealistic drama is that, there is no forward progress to be ma de, the only possible movement is circulararound the perimeter of the space -or repetitive, back and forth across the lateral plane (Harrop 276). I experimented with this concept by always moving in circular movements: my first entrance was made ar ound a table in a semi-circle and I made a cross to the jury in a circ ular fashion in the second act. I would sit motionless for a time as well, allowing time to mak e (a) presence felt (Harrop 277). It was not my intention to employ precisely the elements of the absurd; rather, I chose certain elements and adapted them to Madwoman. I did not, for example, make use of space in an attempt to mirror a va st emptiness nor did I employ clowning in absurdist terms. The play flirts with absurd ism; I decided to play with some of the elements while retaining some of the mo re whimsical and fantastic aspects. On February 11, I had my first costume fitting. I was pleased to see that Lee Alexander Martin, the costume designer, had d ecided to wig me with long hair. In Tims mind, the Ragpicker had given up, a former pi tchman who had walked away from it all one day and no longer cared about his appearance, the illusion of wealth, or his station in


29life. The addition of an olive drab jacket reminded me of Ron Kovic, the Vietnam War veteran and subsequent anti-war activist whose story was popularized in the movie Born on the Fourth of July The addition of colored eyegla sses and a hat completed the look, and I was quite pleased w ith the overall design. The rehearsal process also helped to cl arify The Ragpickers relationship to The Madwoman. Early on I had appreciated the fa ct that The Ragpicker seemed to have a singular ability to stand outside of the play a nd yet still live in its world. In some ways I was reminded of a production of Romeo and Juliet I was in many years ago in which the Chorus was played by the director, weari ng all black and playing a guitar. Some questioned if he was fate, death, both, or ne ither. The script provided no background into their relationship, but I found one aspect interesting. When The Madwoman summons Irma and asks her who is available to portray a lawyer in her mock trial, she immediately thinks of the Deaf Mute. The Ragpicker is only considered when Josephine questions the Deaf Mutes suitability for this particular trial. Ultimately, The Ragpicker has little interaction with anyone; he is characterized by his monologues and his ability to impart information. Despite his role as a former pitchman, he never once convinces anyone of anything as the Madwoman conceives of the plan to rid the world of the wicked herself. I had long thought that The Ragpicker was the voice of Giraudoux in the play and now it made sense. In a world that seemi ngly makes no sense, The Ragpicker serves as the voice of reason. His detached comment ary on the events around him was analogous to a reporter commenting on the war. The Ragpi cker serves as a very real reminder that the play, although full of fancy, still contained a deep seeded current of reality which, in many cases, was taken straight out of the headlines.


30It is an intellectual debate that Girau doux asks the audience consider. The second act finds The Ragpicker playing a role, acting as a defendant in the mock trial. This presented an interesting challenge. I knew ther e were at least two wa ys I could interpret this scene. The first would involve going co mpletely over the top, playing for laughs in an attempt to mock the arrogance of the ru ling elite. I was reminded, however, of other productions that seemed to find this posturing obtuse. I believed th at to caricature the enemy would cheapen the debate, resulting in enjoyment of the parody without ever considering the more insidious consequences. I decided to play the scene as straight as I possibly could. As the character, I tried, ultimately in vain, to win the jury over. I made tactical shifts in an effort to get them to see my point of view; I appealed to Constance personally when the appeals to the masses were not met with sympathy and I even referred to my useless feet to win some empathy. It was important for me that the audience not dismiss the enemies out of hand. I wanted them to take the words seriously a nd consider the argument from a rational and emotional side. I also truste d that the humor would come fr om the absolute sincerity in which the lines were delivered. Throughout the rehearsal process, I was gratified to learn that many of my original ideas were kept intact. Tim had suggested I change three operatives in three different lines, and I was able to easily accommodate his wi shes. After four weeks of rehearsal and Spring Break, we returned on Monday, March 14 to begin a week of technical and dress rehearsals in pr eparation for opening night on March 18.


31CHAPTER 5 TECHNICAL REHEARSAL, DRESS REHEARSALS AND OPENING NIGHT Our first technical rehearsal commenced on March 14, 2011. It consisted of a cue tocue and did not necessitate a full run of the production. Because of the lack of technical demands, we finished early. Yet de spite this fact, I felt personally unfocused and even forgot a line when asked to begin in the middle of the trial scene. I was looking forward to the dress rehearsals that would follow in an effort to compensate for a rather lackluster technical rehearsal. The first time I was seen as The Ra gpicker in full costume and makeup I was asked by several students in the hallways who I was. As a character actor, this was high praise since it is my desire to disappear in to every role I perform. I was completely satisfied with my costume, especially the wig and the glasses. I remarked that the glasses were like x-ray goggles that allowed me to di scern the real humans from the synthetic invaders. When we received our notes after th e rehearsal, Tim insisted that I would have to keep my head up when I spoke. My lowere d position in the chair co upled with the hair and glasses completely obstructed my face. I asked Tim how important my eyes were and whether or not it mattered if the audien ce could see them or not. Initially, I had decided to wear my glasses nearer the end of my nose so that my eyes could be seen. What we discovered, however, was that my chin was moving toward my chest in a subconscious effort to allow the audience to see my eyes. Tim asked if there was any way of removing the glasses at some point. I replied that I woul d find an appropriate place to do so. Overall, the first dress rehe arsal was lacking in energy and focus, but I


32felt it was a personal improvement from the pr evious evening. Tim challenged us to bring more clarity of purpos e to the next evening. For the following evening I decided that I would leave the glasses on for the first act. I was reminded of the Fren ch theatrical tradition in which the auditory experience was more valued than our American, visually stimulating one. I believed it was more important to be heard than seen. I wanted th e audience to listen ve ry carefully to what the character had to say, rather than focu sing on specific features of the actor. The second act, however, provided the perfect oppor tunity to remove the glasses. In the trial scene, The Ragpicker impersonates a businessman who is on trial for the crimes of theft, murder, (and) embezzlement. Since he is literally playing another character, I decided to remove the glasses a nd finally let the audience see my face. Tim loved the idea as a compromise that worked well. Another major change from the first dress was the decision by Tim and the costume designer, Lee Alexander Martin, to braid my wig. Apparently, they believed there was too much hair in th e back and it was distracting. I did not believe there was anything wrong with the wig, but I requested th at if it had to change, a single ponytail be used. When the wig was finally delivered to the dressing room it consisted of two long braids, one on the right and one on the left. I immediately thought of Willie Nelson and felt the comparison was both obvious and comple tely inappropriate for The Ragpicker. Nevertheless, the costume designer and the di rector believed this was the best solution and the wig remained. The red hat I wore made it more bearable in my opinion, and eventually it did not bother me nearly as much after the first few days.


33 The second nights dress rehearsal we nt spectacularly and Tim commented on how much fun he had. I had time before the run to engage in a thorough warm-up that I believed helped me to concentrate more fully. The final dress rehearsal was not as enga ging as the previous night, however I did not think that it was terrible. Several people commented that they were tired and lacking energy that evening, but we all agreed that the addition of an audience would replenish whatever we lacked during that particular rehe arsal. I did not have any major costume or property notes, except to request that a member of the stage crew assist me in opening doors and curtains. Ones thesis role is a perfect opportunity to invite fr iends and family to witness the result of years of dedication, training and artistry. I invited tw o of my undergraduate professors to attend the show on opening night and partake of the post show festivities. Now retired and living in Georgi a, both of them (a husband and wife team) agreed that the acting was sufficient on the whole, but th ey did not understand the need for some of the more sexualized elements of the produc tion. When I introduced them to Tim afterwards, Tim was very complimentary abou t my work and reputation in the theatre. Personally, I was absolutely honored that my friends and former professors would take the time to come see the show. The performance itself was the best it ha d ever been. I concentrated on slowing down somewhat, as my natural tendency is to re cite the lines quite quickly the first time I perform in front of an audience. This ni ght, though, every word was delivered exactly the way I wanted and I felt fully enga ged in the show at all times.


34 After the play, we listened as Paul Favi ni, the interim Director of the School of Theatre and Dance announced the actors who were performing their thesis roles in The Madwoman of Chaillot. It was nice to be recognized, but it also served as a rather large reminder that in a few weeks, this chapter of my career would be coming to a close. It was an incredibly exhilarating evening, and we concluded it by shari ng a glass of wine at home and reminiscing about our days at Coe College.


35CHAPTER 6 CONCLUSION The audience reaction to The Madwoman of Chaillot was certainly a surprise. As I listened to the reactions of colleagues, classmates and even students in my Acting for Non-Majors class, I was amazed at the overwhelmingly positive responses that we received. In a season that included The Grapes of Wrath, Gem of the Ocean and Romeo and Juliet many people were relieved that the season also included a production that, despite its deeper questions concerning morality and its roots in occupied France, saw the entire cast on stage dancing to Lady Gaga. Audiences appreciated the costumes, the music and the sense of fun ev idenced in the production. While some may have disagreed with di rectorial concept, th ere can be no denying that the production was fun to watch and fun to perform. Wi th a running time of just one hour and forty minutes, the show packed ever y minute with humor, music and dancing. It may not have adhered to the original in direction, but I believe Tim Altmeyers adaptation captured the spirit of the original quite well. I would ta ke exception with one aspect of the trial scene that I believed w ould have helped the production quite a bit. When I was making my appeals to the jury, Tim directed them to taunt me the entire time. Despite my carefully considered delivery of this scene, I never felt like the audience was given a chance to think about the issues because the jury had already made up its mind. If they had been lulled into the defense, even for a bit, I believe the effect would have been much more powerful, both comically and intellectually.


36 The incorporation of new techniques in my preparation for this role yielded results that I believe can be adapted to other ro les. I firmly believe in Jouvets breath of creation, of trying to become one with the authors frame of mind and breathing. Mystical though it may sound, I found that the words, images and linguistic devices actually restrained me from imposing any pr econceived notions I may have had regarding this role. A week after we closed The Madwoman of Chaillot I was asked by another professor to observe and make suggestions on her production of Romeo and Juliet I used my newly discovered techniques and was able to offer some observations that Dr. Williams found revealing and enlightening. My work on The Madwoman of Chaillot was rewarding both artistically and personally. I had a chance to work with some extraordinary people and the techniques I discovered and refined during my final semester at the University of Florida will long be sources of inspiration and challenge.




























50 Photo: Ani Collier


51 Photo: Ani Collier


52 Photo: Todd Bedell


53Works Cited Atkinson, Brooks. "Gallic Fantasy." New York Times [New York] 9 Jan. 1949: xi. ProQuest Historical Newspapers Web. 5 Aug. 2010. Cohen, Robert. "Some Political Implicati ons of "The Madwoman of Chaillot"" Contemporary Literature 9.2 (1968): 210-22. JSTOR Web. 4 Aug. 2010. Esslin, Martin. The Theatre of the Absurd Harmondsworth, Middlesex, England: Penguin, 1980. Print. Harrop, John, and Sabin R. Epstein. Acting with Style Boston, MA: Allyn and Bacon, 1999. Print. Knapp, Bettina Liebowitz. Louis Jouvet, Man of the Theatre. New York: Columbia UP, 1957. Print. Le, Sage Laurent. Jean Giraudoux; His Life and Works. [University Park]: Pennsylvania State University, 1959. Print. Mour, Kenneth. "Food Rationing and the Black Market (1949-1944)." French History 24.2 (2010): 262-82. Oxford Journals Web. 29 July 2010. Reboussin, Marcel. "Giraudoux and "T he Madwoman of Chaillot"" Educational Theatre Journal 13.1 (1961): 11-17. JSTOR. Web. 4 Aug. 2010. Walter, Grard. Paris under the Occupation. New York: Orion, 1960. Print. Woodhead, Cameron. Reducing French Classic to Panto. The Age [Melbourne] 16 Nov. 2007, 1st ed., Metro sec.: 17. LexisNexis Academic. Web. 29 July 2010.


54 Biographical Sketch A Texas native, Russell Dean Schultz has ac ted professionally in Dallas appearing on such shows as Walker, Texas Ranger Wishbone and Dallas: The Reunion A veteran theatre actor in Dallas for many y ears, Russell has been seen in Romeo and Juliet (Spring Creek Summer Shakespeare), Much Ado About Nothing and The Tempest (Plano Repertory Theatre) and most recently, Our Town at the WaterTower Theatre. A graduate of Coe College in Cedar Rapids, IA, Russell also holds a Master of Science from The John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City, where he worked as a security and safety project manager and consultant for The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Museum of Modern Art, The Frick Gallery and Sothebys. Russell has been married to his wife, Deidre, for three years and has two children, Grayson and Aven.

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