Jules Verne and a Hurricane

Today we performed our latest ‘auto-cour’, or improvisation.  The theme was L’Ouragan – or the hurricane.  For the past few week we have been learning how to move in a storm, on land and in the sea, as well as other catastrophes – a rushing river, a forest fire.  As I understand it, these cataclysms are part of Lecoq’s method for finding the essential, elemental actor.  We are still performing with the neutral mask – a device designed to eliminate the quotidian minutia of everyday life from our actions so that we are ‘playing’ in a primordial world.

The performance was not the complete disaster I had imagined but it was criticized for being too short.  Our setting, an imagined Haitian house, apparently grew and shrunk in size with each tidal wave and the door knob disappeared on occasion – the joys of mimed theatre!  We were not – as I feared – too quotidian.  I am still at a loss to understand how the other groups are able to accomplish so much in such a limited amount of time.  Working without a leader is slow and excruciating – and that’s when everyone is pleasant and trying hard to get along!

Next week we lose the neutral mask.  But we are to represent the elements in our improvisation – water, air, fire, earth – in a sort of skit.  We attempted something like this a few weeks ago in the LEM course so I think I have a sense the assignment.  It sounds like one of though science films we watch in grade school where fire and water are personified by cute little cartoons.

Just down the street from my apartment is one of Paris’ many little heralded but terrific museums – Musee Arts et Metiers – the museum of arts and engineering.  It is accompanied by a school of engineering, both housed in a range of Baroque, 2nd Empire and Early 20th century buildings.  The museum contains a large assortment of transportation vehicles and Foucault’s pendulum in an abandoned 19th century church..  There are also measuring devices, animatronic figures, and construction techniques throughout the centuries.  2 scale models complete with scaffolding and 6 inch tall workmen show both the Statue of Liberty being carved and then being clad in copper.  I also found the many clocks, barometers, and other early mechanical devises especially beautiful.  It is disappointing to see finely carved wooden inner workings disappear as we barrel into the late 20th century with its transistors, computers and cell phones.  Drab plastic casings are no match for gold and iron gears and rococo handles and hinges.  You can understand why it was named Arts et Metiers.  The subway stop is clad in copper sheathing with portholes and small encased maquettes along the waiting platform – evoking the Nautilus from Jules Verne.

Another Jules Verne – this one even more modern and far more expensive – is on the viewing deck of the Eiffel Tower.  It is a swank outpost of restauranteur Alain Ducasse.  You can experience 4 star, 5 course cuisine while gazing high above the rooftops of Paris. My partner and I went there as a sort of Thanksgiving feast.  The decor resembles the inside of molecule made with dark velvet and frosted glass.  It is a cozy space  – it felt like the passenger cabin of a futuristic zeppelin.  The meal was delicious though the wild rabbit 3 ways was a bit daring for me.


About Russell Parkman

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