Without our characters–our victims, suspects, and sleuths–we would have no one to tell our stories. At Master Mystery Productions, we like to break down each character with our actors, to understand every feeling and thought behind every gesture, step, and expression. Here we’re going to break down our suspects for you as writer/director Daniel Stallings and the talented cast of Bury Me in Paris share their insights on the bohemians of Montparnasse.
ARTISTIC TEMPERAMENTS: THE MAKING OF BURY ME IN PARIS (Part 3)
Every line, every gesture, even the very way a character takes up space is analyzed by us as we dissect, dissemble, and reassemble the characters from the ground up to make them into living and breathing people. It’s easy to create caricatures; It’s much more difficult to develop characters.
So, in this post, I and my wonderful cast will tell you how we feel about each of respective characters and what we’ve imagined and developed for them. It’s part of the art of being an actor, and we can’t wait to share our artistry with you.
The Muse of Montparnasse, Chantal is an infamous character in bohemian Paris who earned her moniker “Madame Mustache” from painting a mustache on her face in makeup to defy and disorient those who would judge her on her appearance. A striking, formidable personality, she is a liberated woman of the age who has flitted from modeling to painting to music to photography to literature as frequently as she flits from lover to lover. Master Mystery Productions veteran, Lena Pokol (Goodbye Hollywood, Goodbye Hollywood: At the Rainbow’s End), gives us her take on the complex character of Chantal:
“Chantal is the epitome of a muse, and she is not your average lady from the 20’s. She’s strong, bold, free-spirited, and fearless. She knows her power of grace, intelligence, and wit, and she uses it all to her advantage. She is not grounded in material things or luxury, but would rather spend anything she makes on experiences. Her life is rich with experiences. Chantal often takes up all the space in the room with her painted-on mustache and sharp intellect. She’s all bark AND all bite. The expected role as a woman does not define her. She is entirely her own person, bohemian and carefree. A lover of art and smart beyond reason, she embraces the lifestyle she has created–It’s her through and through.”
A Parisian painter whose work has finally started to catch buyer interest, Edgar is Chantal’s current lover and the artist she has helped promote. Popular opinion believes that Edgar was the artist who created the famous “Madame Mustache” painting. Edgar is my character and here are some insights I have on him:
“There is something tortured about Edgar beyond the artistic cliche. He is trapped and emotionally crippled, at times cynical and shockingly vulnerable. He is often ferried about like a recalcitrant child. But there is a tender, romantic soul behind the grumpiness and grouse. His heart is not shielded from the first contact he has with someone who is completely alien to the world of Montparnasse that embittered him.”
Zoe is the young, expatriate ingénue from the United States who sought the glamour and style of the Old World in order to escape the confines of her small town. Shy and naïve, she is swept into the bohemian wonderland of Montparnasse. Devanne Fredette (The Last Garden Party) returns to Master Mystery Productions in this role and describes how she developed Zoe’s interesting character:
“When I approach the character Zoe Fox, I think of her interactions between the other characters. As an expatriate, I can imagine her shock in meeting one of the richest women in Paris, Flora, and basically being dragged into her world of passion, heartbreak, and intrigue in the world of art and the artist. As a result, she comes across as a shy, naive young woman because she has no relation to the group, but, as the story progresses, she finds herself drawing closer to each of the artistic party-goers in more ways than one.”
The heiress to the Westcott railway fortune, Flora is living the fast and loose life of a flapper with the bank balance to support it. She spends her days knocking back cocktails, wooing artists in the sidewalk cafés, throwing parties in the studios, and collecting art for her impressive collection. Newcomer to MMP, Katie Cozine, tells us all about her fun, frivolous, and feisty character:
“Flora is the embodiment of the sentiment ‘girls just want to have fun.’ She grew up lousy with money; therefore it means very little to her. Her fortune does not define her in any way, except perhaps to give her the means to be infinitely and exorbitantly generous. Flora is the life of the party. She dances, drinks, and lives in the moment. She is also very kind and is a friend to nearly everyone. Flora wears her heart on her sleeve, and it has the bruises to show for it. She loves deeply and far too soon. She is loyal nearly to a fault once you enter her good graces.”
A rival of Edgar Giraud, “Massimo” is an impoverished artist whose work is still largely uncelebrated. A talkative contrast to Edgar, Massimo is fond of wine, women, and wit, so much so that her preoccupation with them have let her artistic progress falter in recent years. Cat Kusznir joins us in her first Master Mystery Production in this role and shares her views on the extravagant “Massimo”:
“I love playing with the androgyny of “Massimo.” I feel like she uses a masculine facade to hide her vulnerability. She uses alcohol and wit to make people like her. But she has a gift for seeing others for who they really are. Her art involves portraiture of people stripped down to the true essence of who they really are. It’s not especially commercially successful art, but she takes great pleasure in seeing what other people miss.”
American expatriate writer and publisher of the magazine, Promenade, which publishes many bohemian writers of the age, Wilhelmina is Chantal’s latest conquest as she hopes to use her knowledge to help her publish her memoirs. She is a world-wise traveler who has journeyed around the world in search of her stories. She is very skeptical of Chantal and her antics. Monica Lorenz (The Last Garden Party) graces the stage as this intriguing combination of sleuth and suspect in her second Master Mystery Production. Here are her thoughts on Wilhelmina “Willie” Blake:
“The character of Wilhelmina Blake, better known as Willie, was undoubtedly born before her time. A writer, smoker, American expatriate, among many other things, she had no other choice but to relocate to Paris so that she could publish her scandalous bohemian works without reproach. Nicknamed “The Black Swan” not just because of her penchant for sporting plumage from this ornamental water bird, but also because she finds comfort in this obscure color, both in her wardrobe and also in the covert corners she prefers to spend quality time in. An investigative journalist at heart, it is in the dark shadows, where she can most effectively overhear salacious conversation that are her source for the ultimate truths.”
Benji is a jazz musician at Montparnasse with a boisterous, jovial, and fun-loving personality. He doesn’t take life too seriously. He is devoted to Chantal and charmed by her. Darren Hoyt is new to Master Mystery Productions and brings his talents to Bury Me in Paris as the lovable Benji. Here are Darren’s thoughts on his character:
“After being off the stage for 20+ years, Benji Bradley was a perfect character for me to play due to the fact I play six instruments fluently. A jazz musician is right up my alley. All musical parts are original and improvised. Benji falling head over heels for Chantal all the way to the ‘Arousal Solo’ was fun to do. I cannot say if Benji brought more of me out as we rehearsed or if I brought more of Benji out. That is a question for you to answer.”
Seven suspicious suspects. A lucky number. Or perhaps unlucky as the angel of death hovers over their heads. Could living the bohemian life mean dying a bohemian death? Join us starting March 25th for Bury Me in Paris to find out the truth.
Don’t forget your tickets! You can buy them here.
We’ve introduced our artists. Now its time to decorate them. Learn all about the costumes, accessories, props, and other trimmings in an era and world where glamour, art, and style reigned in Dress for Your Worst Enemy: The Making of Bury Me in Paris (Part 4).
–Master Mystery Productions