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The Scarlet Pimpernel

Saturday Night Fever

Camille Claudel

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From Shanna L.:

Hi Nan,

I am a student of Jen Waldman, and she passed along your email so I could get your thoughts on some questions I have. I am working on Gold, and I was wondering where in the show does this take place? I believe it is at the end, but is she reflecting on her entire life, is she completely sane at this point? I couldn't find the script so I am piecing my information from internet synopsis and stories of Camille's life.

I also am curious to the setting of the piece, physically where is she? Is there anyone on stage with her?

I have my own ideas of what her "Gold" is, but I would love to know what you think it is- any other information that you think I should have would be great!

I absolutely love this song and I am intrigued by this character. Thank you so much for letting me reach out. It is so cool to be in touch with you, it is so rare to have access to the people who create the pieces in my audition book.

I look forward to hearing from you soon.


Friday, 13 May 2011

Hi, Shanna- I'm happy to give you some information and am flattered that you've taken such an interest in the song.

So- the first thing to know is that Camille Claudel was a student of the famous sculptor Auguste Rodin. (She also became his muse, his mistress, his competitor, enemy, you name it.) But when she was his student, he once said to her, "Camille, I can show you where the gold is but the gold you find will be your own." That's a rough translation, but he was basically saying he'd teach her some skills, but the treasure she found at the end would be purely hers. And he referred to it as "the gold." I originally wanted to call the song "The Gold" but Frank (Wildhorn- the composer) felt that calling it just "Gold" was more commercial and he was right. I guess I felt that calling it "The Gold" would let people know that this was a real quote from a real situation and not just some hyped-up metaphor we'd fashioned. Anyway the title is "Gold" and that's that.

Secondly, the song occurred to me very early on in the writing of the show. (You probably know I did both book & lyrics). I was struck by what Rodin had said, Frank had written a melody that felt to me triumphant and poignant at the same time and I knew I would want to end the show with a statement that reflected both the tragic ending of Camille's life and also the ultimate beauty and success of her life because her work endured. I felt that using the phrase "I know my voice was just a whisper.." would work very well as a metaphor since it would be sung and it allowed the singer to modulate up, to vocally build- to literally transform a hopeful whisper into a joyful cry of "someone must have heard!" I think this feeling is true for most of us artists. Most of us don't "make it," and so it becomes vital to believe that someone somewhere out there did hear us, did see us or understand us.

Camille did achieve some degree of renown in her lifetime, but she had a very hard time building on her success and overcoming the odds of being a female sculptor in a male world. She and Rodin were lovers- really and truly tempestuous lovers- and she began to feel he was trying to quash her work, to push her in the background. Some of that may be true. She also developed clear mental illness- I am fairly certain it was what they call today bi-polar (manic-depressive). She would work incessantly holed up in a shack by the Seine and then she would grow depressed and paranoid and destroy what she had created in fear that Rodin would steal her work and claim it as his own. (In at least a few instances, Rodin did claim her work as his own but that was when she was younger and would sculpt beautiful hands and feet for his sculptures and he would never give her credit. As I say- who knows to what extent he did feel artistically threatened or extremely competitive with her?) But she did become quite mentally ill, living in this shack with tons of cats and little food and so she was hospitalized. Unfortunately, it was not just a "hospitalization." Her brother (who had become a well-known diplomat and was embarrassed by her) had her committed. In those days if a woman was committed, that was it- no way out, no rights.

She spent the last 30 years of her life committed in the hospital. Although she begged to come home and to work in a little barn near her mother's house, her mother would never let her. And so Camille never sculpted again.

In the show, I basically tell the story chronologically, ending with the moment she is literally (truth) dragged out the windows of her shack by policemen. But then I have the cast come forward one by one to tell a few last lines about what happened to Rodin, Camille, her brother, etc, after this point. Then slides are shown of her actual work. Up until that point, we have seen her creating on stage, seen models posing and occasionally heard the titles of the pieces she's sculpting, but now we see the actual works as huge projections and as each sculpture is seen, one of the actors says the name of the piece ("The Wave," "Cat Stretching," "The Flute Player," etc.) After the projections end, the company recedes and Camille steps forward into a spot and sings "Gold." It is sung out of time, out of place. It is sung almost as if her spirit had returned after death. It is Camille speaking to us about the life she lived. "Although my voice was just a whisper, someone may have heard" which then elides later into the stronger "I know my voice was just a whisper, but someone must have heard." And so in the end she triumphs because of that. Because someone heard. We heard. Her work exists. She is still alive.

Hope this helps. Let me know if you have more questions and good luck with the song.

Best to you- Nan

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