Perhaps what made Eat Cake so exciting for us to create and produce is the stark juxtaposition against the reigning nobility of France and the uprising revolutionaries. We wanted to create characters at sharp contrast with each other, characters who were totally at odds. We wondered what would happen if royals and rebels were forced to share the same apartment in Versailles…and mysterious murders started taking place. The show has been a delight to bring to life, mainly because of the outstanding talents of our brilliant cast. We’ll now let them tell you more about their high-spirited, haughty, and hilarious characters in Eat Cake, and how they chose to bring these bickering blue bloods and bourgeoisie to life.
ROYALS AND REBELS: The Making of Eat Cake (Part 2)
The Marquis Mauvais (which translates into The Marquis of Death) is the eccentric, vain, and flamboyant master of the apartments in Versailles. Ridiculous and fickle, the Marquis vacillates between fashions and whims in the blink of an eye. His current fixation is “philanthropy,” an insane desire to do good while actually doing nothing of the sort. He has taken Brigitte into his home to teach her the finer things in life without realizing she is using him to aid a revolutionary plot. He is often at odds with Lady Chantilly, his intended bride. Jonathan Blair last delighted audiences in his MMP debut in Mutiny on the Sea Witch (November 2018) as Coxswain Pierce, winning the coveted Diamond Mask Award for his performance. He gives us his views on the Marquis Mauvais:
“The Marquis Mauvais is an interesting character of a man. Raised by a strict, puritanical man, he has grown up with a maniacal nature. In rebellion against the strict pressure, the Marquis throws himself into all sorts of eccentricities. He has developed a defense around himself of shutting off his emotions, an armor of sorts to protect himself. He did not receive much love or gentle guidance from his father and had an extreme hatred of the man. However, the Marquis Mauvais has figured out how to get other people to like him among the aristocracy. He is an excellent manipulator and knows what strings to pull in order to achieve his own ends. Arrogant and conceited, the Marquis is sure of himself and belives he cannot fail in any of his plans.”
Lady Chantilly (Yes, just like the cream) is the Marquis’ fiancée and the ward of Madame la Comtesse. Clearly the brains of the relationship with the Marquis, Her Ladyship has been cooking up a scheme with him which they hope to execute that day. Unfortunately, he neglected to tell her about Brigitte, which infuriates Lady Chantilly. Exasperated by his fickleness and narcissism, she nonetheless stays loyal to him and their goals, despite never missing the opportunity to throw a little shade in his direction. Recent inductee into the Diamond Mask Winner circle after her landmark performance as Victoria Camden in What Happens at Sundown (September 2018), Rebecca Witherell is a phenomenal young actress with a bright future, who was last seen in CLOTA’s production of The Game’s Afoot as Aggie Wheeler. Here Rebecca shares her thoughts on what makes Lady Chantilly tick:
“I’ve had a huge amount of fun playing Chantilly. She’s very poised and proper while also being conniving and vicious. She also seems to be constantly tested by everyone around her, which is very entertaining from an acting standpoint, especially since the rest of the cast is so talented that playing off them is a joy. I think my favorite part of Chantilly, though, is her aristocratic flamboyance and intelligence, which I think make her a fantastic character, highlighting both the ridiculousness of the upper class she is a part of and how constantly she is underestimated by those around her.”
Brigitte the Bawd is a “woman of ill fame” who lives in the slums of Paris and regularly turns a profit on noblemen who visit her establishment. Sassy, smart-mouthed, and strong-willed, Brigitte is never afraid to confront the issue or speak her mind. Said to have a mind “like a guillotine,” she is the sharpest person involved and often has to figure out how to fix the chaos caused by the others. She is pro-Revolution and is trying to sneak revolutionary friends of hers into Versailles to complete a secret plan. Brilliant MMP actress, Skeleton Key Winner, and Diamond Mask Winner Heather McGaha joins us for another show after playing Chantal in Bury Me in Paris (Skeleton Key Award), Willow in Femme Fatales, Donatella Violetta in Exit Prima Donna (Diamond Mask Award), and Moll Flint in Mutiny on the Sea Witch. For her fifth Master Mystery Production, Heather shares her insights on this “high-minded harlot”:
“Brigitte the Bawd is as sassy as she is strong willed. She may not be as prim and proper as the rest but she certainly is one of the sharpest. This woman of the night is a fearless business woman who stops at nothing to achieve the goal at hand. Between her high spirit and smart mouth she has no problem cleaning up other people’s messes, a little flirtation and flattering can go a long way to helping people see things from her point of view.”
Madame la Comtesse (The Countess of Nowhere in Particular) is the widowed and childless Countess and an extremely wealthy and respected aristocrat of the French court, despite no one knowing or caring what she is a countess of. The Countess becomes a central figure in the play when it’s clear several attempts have been made on her life. Unconcerned about her safety, the Countess has a bad habit of showing up at places where it’s dangerous for her to be, creating even more chaos as several nefarious plans collide and conflict with each other. Adored MMP veteran and four-time award winner Monica Lorenz joins us for her seventh production after outstanding work as Lady Elizabeth Bradfordshire-Pierce in The Last Garden Party (Skeleton Key Award), Wilhelmina Blake in Bury Me in Paris (Diamond Mask Award), Simone Davenport in Ode to Agatha (Diamond Mask Award), Amara Balewa in The Silent City, Assistant Director for Exit Prima Donna, and Helena Rothschild in What Happens at Sundown. Not only that, she was the recipient of the Master Mystery Productions Founder’s Award for 2017. Monica shares her thoughts of the character of the Countess:
“The bubbly and ever-so-gregarious Madame la Comtesse is Versailles’s resident social butterfly. As she wields her riding crop with the skill of a master horseman, she is dressed to impress in the latest French fashion, beautifully adorned in a cascade of pearls and perfumed to the nines. Never one to turn down an invitation to an undoubtedly extravagant party amongst her aristocratic elite, she always makes certain of her own personal enjoyment by going as far as bringing her own distinctive champagne and indulgent desserts as compelled by her immense sweet tooth. Regularly taking afternoon tea in the garden with France’s Queen Consort herself, Marie Antoinette, she is quite comfortable hobnobbing with her own kind, the crème de la crème. However, not wanting to feel suffocated living in her golden bubble within the palace walls, she enjoys regular excursions throughout the countryside. While doing so, Madame la Comtesse revels in getting up close and personal, so to speak, with the local peasants. That being said, she does not bat an eye in giving the peasants a run for their money, quite literally, in offering the special opportunity to show their patriotism with their skill in patisserie. Honest to a fault, Madame la Comtesse always has a kind word for those closest to her on the tip of her tongue. In addition, she has proven to have a big heart by taking in a ward of unfortunate homely proportions. Even so, that did not stop her from selflessly searching for a physically compatible suitor for her within the same social class. Adamant about living a decadent life, one may hear Madame la Comtesse exclaim, ‘Life is for the living!’ No sweeter words have ever been spoken from the lips of the most exquisite femme.”
Henri is a Citizen of France, a revolutionary aiming to take down the French aristocracy, and an associate of Brigitte the Bawd. Hot-headed and eager to fight, Henri is the least stable of the revolutionary trio as he is keen on picking fights with the aristocrats. Brigitte is trying to sneak him into Versailles for a secret mission. But when disaster strikes, Henri gets tangled up in the aristocracy in a way he didn’t expect. Highly respected veteran actor Calvin Johnson returns to us for his fourth show after a hugely successful run as Geoffrey Challenger in the original Goodbye Hollywood series and after winning the Skeleton Key Award for his work as a voice actor on Ex Luna. He received critical acclaim after playing Sherlock Holmes and William Gillette (an actor famous for playing Holmes) in the Community Light Opera and Theater Association’s productions of Ken Ludwig’s works Baskerville and The Game’s Afoot; or Holmes for the Holidays respectively. Calvin gives us his insights into Henri’s character:
“The entirety of Henri’s life has been obscenely difficult for him, and for good reason. Raised in the slums of Versailles, Henri is among the poorest of the poor and the lowest of the low; even the pigs have higher authority over him. Every day is a struggle for him: trying to find food, staying free of disease, finding a place to sleep. Just staying alive is a Herculean task for our poor peasant. Henri blames the high aristocracy for the plight of the common folk and would love nothing more than to see the Fat Pig himself, Louis XVI, struck down from his pedestal. Under the guidance of Robespierre, Henri becomes a passionate Revolutionist, who will do just about anything to make sure that his people are given the things they deserve. Henri will stop at nothing to achieve his goals, and he is willing to take out anyone who gets in his way.”
Madame du Pommade is a vicious gossip who haunts the halls of Versailles, collecting people’s secrets for her “private enjoyment.” Sneaky and sly, Madame du Pommade has set her sights on The Marquis Mauvais as her next target in her “game of information.” She has invited herself, completely unsolicited, to his apartments and becomes an extra complication for our characters to work around. At best an inconvenience, at worst an active spy, Madame du Pommade knows something is up at Versailles and is determined to stick her nose right into the heart of the matter. Even if it means risking the chopping block. Beloved MMP veteran and Skeleton Key Winner (The Silent City) Devanne Fredette returns for her record-breaking ninth production with the company after a stellar 2018 season where she won the Diamond Mask Award for her role as Cutlass Kate in Mutiny on the Sea Witch (November 2018), the Founder’s Award for 2018, and the Blood, Sweat, and Tears Award from Ridgecrest Community Theatre Troupe. She also serves as the Assistant Director for Eat Cake. With her love of visual art, Devanne also created a drawing of her character to pair with her thoughts on the sinister Madame du Pommade:
“Undertaking the role of Madame du Pommade has been quite the challenge and journey. When it comes to being an actor, there is this sense of vulnerability over whether or not you take an action too far or, if you’re playing a character that reacts differently from you, whether or not the character would act and think that way. It’s an interesting way to learn and progress over your reactions and emotions, so you can face your fears portraying someone that you might not understand at first, but has become a part of yourself and part of the fun of being an actor. Madame du Pommade is a woman who lives to have no regrets, because she has tasted the ‘perfect’ life before it was taken away from her. She was born into a rather well-off family, her family being bakers and chefs for the nobility. She was raised to have finesse, but she was also able to see through the problems of the nobility. As France started to go through the grain shortage, in a way to keep money for the family, Pommade was married off to a nobleman, where she then got a taste of the noble life and wanted to climb the ladder in rank. That’s when she caught the eye of the King. Becoming the King’s mistress, she was able to gain power. When she learned her husband had cheated on her, she used her new power to get him kicked out of the palace grounds. However, the King’s eyes had moved on to another woman, so, out of jealousy, Madame du Pommade moved to uncover the secrets of this new mistress to get her excommunicated from the Church. Unfortunately, Pommade fell out of favor with the King, and she was able to stay in the noble class by using blackmail and other scandalous means. With this show being a farce, it brings out the more outrageous aspects of each character’s attitude and gestures. With Pommade, it’s very much in her body language. I think of a spider mixed with a snake–suave and gentle, but big and sharp when it comes to moving.”
Marianne is Madame la Comtesse’s saucy, sassy, vinegar-tongue maid/companion with a penchant for listening at keyholes. She is a fervent revolutionary who uses her position in the Countess’ household to aid Brigitte and Henri’s mission in Versailles. However, Marianne isn’t fond of Brigitte and has started making plans of her own. Dangerous plans. Skeleton Key and two-time Diamond Mask Award Winner Nicole Johnson joins us for her fourth Master Mystery Production after playing Miriam Lancaster in Ode to Agatha (Skeleton Key and Diamond Mask Award), Zahara Bitar in The Silent City, and Leonora in Exit Prima Donna (Diamond Mask Award). As Marianne was a smaller character, Nicole had a chance to build a unique backstory for this impassioned maid. Here she provides her story and insights into the rebel heart of Marianne:
“Mary Ann Ripley was born in the Whitechapel area of London in 1740. She was the 13th and youngest child of Irish Catholic parents. As such, her care was given to an older sister as her parents couldn’t be bothered by another infant. Mary Ann grew to resent her parents. And while she loved her Catholic faith, she could barely stand to be in her parents home. For that reason she ran away at the age of 10. She made her way onto the London stage playing every character imaginable. At the age of 15 she played Helen of Troy and won the heart of a handsome, yet penniless duke. They married 2 weeks after meeting. Despite her new title, Mary Ann, Duchess of Somerset, she was far from a lady of leisure, which was the life she craved. She had no servants at all. She did all the housework for her husband and their growing brood (she gave birth to 7 sons in 8 years)! By the early 1770’s, Mary Ann’s husband was giving into his wondering eye. In 1772, Mary Ann’s oldest son Francis was hired on as a jailer at the Bridewell House of Correction. Soon after, Mary Ann’s husband let it slip and he was going to divorce her and leave her with even less than she already had. Not on that, he was going to make their children bastards in the eyes of Mary Ann’s beloved Catholic Church. One night in 1773, the duke was out at the pub drinking up and flirting with anyone in a skirt! Mary Ann knew he would be coming home drunk. So she carefully melted a bucket of lard and spread it around just inside the front door. When the duke came barreling in drunk as a skunk, he slipped and fell backwards through the still open door, hitting his fat head on the cobblestone steps, killing him instantly! Because Mary Ann was never the best housekeeper, the police found that just inside the door there was still lard. Mary Ann just didn’t bother to clean it up. They charged her with murder and the judge passed judgement that she should be hanged until she was dead. Well, one positive thing Mary Ann was, was a very loving mother. She was sent to Bridewell House of Correction where her son Francis worked. It was there that they devised a plan for her escape. At shift change, Francis tossed a jailer’s uniform into Mary Ann’s cell and then “forgot” the lock the cell door. Mary Ann changed clothes and walked right out the front door of the jail and into the night. She hopped on the first boat to France. She first landed at Calais, where she began calling her Marianne Satine. From Calais she made her to Paris, where she accidentally ended up in Madame la Comtesse’s employ as Madame’s previous maid had died due to some malady. Some said it was poison, some said it was consumption. Whatever it was, Marianne was at the right place at the right time. In Paris, Marianne was now closer than ever to all the wealth she had always desired. However, being a maid, she still was not where she thought she should be. After working for many years for Madame, Marianne has grown increasingly sassy, bored, and quite frankly, she is disgusted by Madam. Marianne also hates how everyone in the aristocracy smells and behaves. She hates orange water. And going potty under stairwells in just uncivilized in her opinion! The English, in her opinion are much cleaner. Marianne is also extremely jealous of Brigitte. Brigitte is everything Marianne would like to be. To be honest, Marianne believes that if Brigitte were not in the picture, she herself would be poised to finally take her rightful place in the French Aristocracy. While Marianne’s name has been lost to history, it is interesting to note, that all 7 of her sons took her maiden name of Ripley. Her great grandson Jack Ripley became a Dr. and he became famous for his many crimes. He was known as Jack the Ripper. While he escaped justice in London. He didn’t escape justice in America. He was hung from he gallows in the great state of Virginia for stealing a horse.”
Marie Antoinette is the renowned Queen Consort of France at the time of the French Revolution, married to the Bourbon King Louis XVI. Known for her frivolity, love of fashion, and the hatred her subjects had for her, Marie Antoinette is something of a tragic figure. She was executed by guillotine during the Revolution. MMP veteran performer Tiffany Cheney will step into these iconic shows in her first named character role after appearing in the Chorus of Exit Prima Donna (Spring 2018) and the Ensembles of What Happens at Sundown (September 2018) and Mutiny on the Sea Witch (November 2018). She shares with us her thoughts on this legendary queen:
“As the last queen of France, Marie Antoinette was admired by some and disliked by others. In Eat Cake, Marie is enjoying her time away from court with her close friend Madame La Comtesse. She likes spending time away from court with friends where she does not have to think about the politics of France. She is fond of her farm and looked forward to her time alone collecting eggs and feeding the pigs. Although she was the last Queen of France she was born in Austria and her French was very poor. This made her ignorant of the revolutionary plots happening around her and giving her a sweet and innocent demeanor towards everyone.”
Royals and rebels do have one thing in common, though. They all need clothes to wear. Step into our costume department and learn about how we created the elaborate garments worn by our actors. How did we get their hips that large? How much frosting is too much frosting on a cake of a costume? You’ll find out in An Excess of Frosting: The Making of Eat Cake (Part 3)!
And don’t forget your tickets to the show!
–Master Mystery Productions