From Glenden in Minneapolis:
I was just wondering if any work was being done on Camille Claudel?
And also, I thought I read that you didn't want the story to seem tragic. So how in the
Goodspeed production were you able to avoid this? Is it necessary to avoid a tragic ending? I
remember seeing Parade at the Kennedy Center which didn't have a happy ending but it was one of
the most powerful shows I've ever seen. I was just wondering what perspective you had when
writing Camille Claudel.
Wednesday, 27 June 2007
It's good to hear from you again. "Camille Claudel" is definitely not dead. Frank has been
pursuing many European possibilities for a production, as well as a few in America. There is
some strong interest. I would like to do a re-write before any new productions, however, as I
feel I learned a lot from the Goodspeed production about what worked and what didn't.
Your question about the "tragedy" aspect is an interesting one. The reason I have always felt
so strongly that Camille's story is not tragic is because her work still lives today- that's her
strength and ultimately her immortality. When I wrote the song "Gold" (which ends the show), I
was trying to say that if one does the best one can do and touches at least one heart along the
way, then that's enough. And that's not tragic. So, for me, choosing to end the show with that
song was my attempt to send the audience away with an uplifted spirit.
I totally agree with you that there are musicals that end tragically which are wonderful and
powerful (and God knows that's the case with plays). However, as an artist, I simply prefer not
to go this route. I have always been an optimist and it's hard to shake that out of your system.
I really don't think I could ever end a show without giving glimpses of hope- it would just go
against my grain. It's a personal choice. In the beginning, I truly had to be persuaded to write
"Camille Claudel," as I felt the subject matter was too dark and allowed for so little humor or
fun. When I finally made the decision to do it, I was insistent upon focusing on Camille's
sassiness (which was real, by the way) and finding aspects of her story which were not so
hopeless. Even so, one can never (and should never) get away from the basic facts of her life-
the destructive and obsessive love affair with Rodin, her struggles to achieve success as a
woman, and the 30 year incarceration at the end of her life. I believe it was these facts above
all else that prevented the show from being picked up by any producer. Today, as I've written in
another letter, is the day of "Hairspray" and "Spamalot," and producers definitely shy away from
a heavy or dark musical, as they don't believe it's what the public wants.
I hope this answers your question, Glenden, and look forward to hearing from you again.