Thursday, August 9, 2007
Rehearsing With the Stars
We walked over at 4:00 pm to la prairie du Chateau for our dress rehearsal, Doug as a monk and I as a paysan. For once, we weren't the first to arrive, as there were flurries of activity going on everywhere. This was a good sign, assuming we might actually begin on time. Literally hundreds of costumes were already hanging from the cleverly constructed clothes-rods-in-the-trees. Yards and yards of camouflage material hide the 'backstage' from our audience who will be in the bleachers across la prairie.
We were quickly cautioned that on samedi (Saturday) for the procession through Leran, and dimanche (Sunday) for the actual Spectacular, we would not be allowed to wear glasses, wristwatch, jewelry, anything that would reflect light from the video camera. We must have been told this 10 times in various forms of French, pigeon French and sort-of English. I guess they really wanted to make sure we understood.
Some of the other fellow 100 or so figurants (walk-ons without speaking parts) are in nearly every scene, and I think there are 18 total scenes. Some of them must have a different costume for each scene. I could almost sense that there is a certain status achieved by the number of costumes worn. That being said, Doug and I are pretty low in the pecking order, but then it's only our first year. The costumes themselves are works of art. Even though the audience will be quite a distance away and unable to discern any real detail, the seamstresses (Pascaline et al) spared no accuracy in their design and follow-through. It almost gives you the feel that you really are that character; and what could be better than that. When I looked around at the costumes hanging from the many 'tree-racks', the diversity was striking: gladiateurs, soldiers, knights, clergy, nobles, villageois, paysans, tribunals, garrocha, indiens, and a entire scene of people clad in Gone With the Wind clothing (I haven't pieced that one together yet).
The headdresses are equally superb. My favorite, by far and away, is the knight's helmet. It has been constructed from an ordinary hard hat spray painted in metallic silver and given a regal topnotch with the addition of a red push broom. It became the center of attention as several of us were sitting on hay bales and one guy pantomimed using the helmet as a vessel for eating with, then using the brush for cleaning the teeth and hair and shoes. Perhaps from the pictures, even if you weren't there, you can get the idea.
In the photos, the knights (or soldiers) wear the white capes with red crosses and grey cagoules, Doug is monkly and I am paysanly, the young girl is a fellow paysan, the regal woman is a noble, and the crinoline/parasol ladies are a mystery to me. If you enlarge the photo of the single knight (not on horseback) you can just barely notice his shoes. I thought they looked elfin-like, but someone else called them "pirogues" for French river boats. He made them himself, molded over another pair of shoes, specifically for medieval fairs and plays. That's serious stuff.
Entire families are engaged in the Leran'Cestral. This year's presentation is only the 4th annual, but watching the the cast and crew would make one think they've been involved for generations. Maybe it's because it's all about their history that they are so passionate; maybe they just love a good play; maybe there's nothing good on TV during August.
The thought of actually starting on time was just too good to be true. 4:00 came and went, as did 4:30, 5:00, 5:30, 6:00. No one seemed perturbed; well, there were a few who looked at their watches, but everyone was still laughing and having a grand time. By 6:15, Doug and I were attempting to find out what was NOT going on. Apparently some of the equestrians had to work and were late coming. So the paysans must wait. It's what we paysans do. But at 6:30 it all came to life. It was only a dress rehearsal, but I have to say, it was worth the wait.