Emily has not been able to pursue her theater projects for several months due to the confinement. July would not normally be a month when she would be working, or need our childcare assistance, but this year, after the restrictions were lifted, she wanted to get back to it. We were sympathetic. She and a pianist friend named Anna, have been developing a show called A Sense of Touch, inspired by the health crisis we have all been going through. They came to Montmirail last week for a residency at the château, where there is a grand piano and space for rehearsal. The grandchildren came along and it was our job to keep them occupied while Emily and Anna worked. A performance at the castle was scheduled for Sunday evening.
The atelier was the locus of much activity during the week. For one thing, all the props and costumes had to be created. All hands were on deck for that.
Emily’s friend Oria, half Argentinian, half Italian, arrived to help out with the construction projects. She often has done the scenery and costumes for shows that Emily and Jos have mounted. We had a few guests in addition the theater crew, so it was a busy and interesting week.
One very pleasant day, we took the kids to the lake in La Ferté-Bernard, a short drive from home. We have had lunch at this same table many times before. It’s right next to the river.
There is a lovely beach where kids and dogs can swim and play and keep cool. We spent the entire day by the lake, relaxing.
Quinn was quite intent on creating a fleet of paper airplanes. He has become skilled with an xacto knife and cut out and assembled about ten, some of which were pretty good flyers.
Zinnie’s paper project was making buildings.
I showed them how to make cyanotype tee-shirts. The photo sensitive liquid is painted on the shirt, some plants are arranged on top, the whole thing is pressed in a glass frame and left in the sun for a few minutes to expose. It’s developed with water. The children were pleased with their results.
We played a lot of cards, took walks and did some reading. Days passed quickly.
Zinnie wanted to get out her mother’s Peter Rabbit china set, which I keep at the maison, and have a tea party. Oria brought some very special tea from the French Alps and Anna brought fig bread.
Sunday evening the public was invited to arrive at the château an hour or so before the performance to have a picnic dinner in the park. It was a pleasant evening, neither hot nor cold. Yearime, another of Emily’s friends, arrived in the morning to see the performance. She helped prepare our picnic and accompanied us to the castle.
Approximately 100 people came to watch the show in shifts. Everyone was asked to dress in white. The show was indoors with masks. The salon where it was performed is called the room of the senses, as it has paintings of all the five senses on the wall. It seemed very appropriate for the performance, which wasn’t quite a concert and not exactly a play, but a kind of hybrid.
Anna is a professional pianist, very accomplished who works in Paris for major venues. She met Emily when they worked together on a show at the Opéra Comique. Emily has mostly been doing writing and directing for the last ten years. This was her first performance in a decade. She sang and narrated and pantomimed as Anna played piano.
It was a lovely show that seemed to please everyone who attended. It certainly seemed appropriate to the moment. The château owner was delighted and invited Emily to come back any time.
The program was varied, including Gnosiennes by Erik Satie, I’ve Got You Under My Skin by Cole Porter, Preludes #6 and 4 by Frederic Chopin, Children’s Scenes, Reverie and The Poet Speaks by Robert Schumann, Waltz by François Poulenc, Dance Me to the End of Time by Leonard Cohen, I Don’t Love You by Kurt Weill and The Death of Orpheus by Christoph Gluck and Giovanni Sgambati. It was so nice for us to hear Emily sing and Anna is a marvelous pianist.
While the second group watched the performance, we waited outside until the very end of the evening, watching the sun sink into the west, painting the sky in oranges and purples, fading to dark blue. Night falls very late here in summer, but by the time everything was finished and we were all reunited, it was dark enough to take our telescope to the edge of town to observe the comet Neowise, a once every 6800 year opportunity. A perfect end to a wonderful week.