The theatre was nothing but wood with twirling staircases leading to the balconies and upper boxes. The theatre only sat a maximum of 300 people. In every alcove there was an oak gargoyle snarling at Artoir’s dancing puppets. The oil lamps delivered a dim glow across the pews where audience sat, the auditorium was filled with talented musicians playing second hand instruments, the screaming sound of the violins proved how cheap they were and how poorly paid the musicians were. Looking around the theatre, it reminded me of a chapel with a long aisle stretching to the auditorium with rows of pews ether side and on the backs of the pews were small hooks from where the preying cushions would have been placed. However, the theatre that once worshipped the live of Adam and Eve was now at the mercy of the serpent and the devil.
I sat in box 2 directly overlooking the stage. The fine chiseled oak stage was stained with oil, the setting was a canvas painted in colored oil paint, set in a dark wood with a silver moon in the background of tree silhouettes, and the lights dimmed and I breathed heavily in a passionate excitement. A divine shiver crawled down my spine as I heard footsteps come onto the floorboards that echoed throughout the theatre. Everyone sat in silence eagerly awaiting Claudia Desir, and then she arrived to a phenomenal applause. Claudia Desir walked as proud as the peacock onto the stage, her auburn brown hair hanged loosely around her well-curved shoulders and vampire succulent neck. The brilliant white light made her emerald green eyes sparkle. Her beauty dazzled me but her voice, oh her voice I had heard rumors of how dazzling her voice was and tonight the rumors were confirmed; she started slowly leaving the audience impatient then she erupted in a flood of energy, I was shaking but she sang ‘Bella figlia dell'amore’ from Verdi’s Rigoletto a famous Italian opera for decades. The pitch of the high notes were so perfectly tuned, to hear it you would have thought heaven’s angels inherited her voice to her. The performance was an opera rare for the theatre but well performed, it was performed after Claudia, sang her opening song. An opera about a young wealthy woman who has an illicit affair with one of her horse grooms. A typical storyline one in which most people would be able to predict the ending of, but this one was not predictable; instead, the husband brutally murdered the groom by gouging out his eyes. Many women fainted in the audience, the men covered their eyes, there were no children in the theatre, and they were forbidden due to the performance’s controversial content.
However, it would not matter anyway the cries from the women duplicated the cries of children having nightmares. However, regardless of this, Claudia stood out like no other actor on that stage; in the eyes of the supporting actors, I could see pride and honor because of working alongside Claudia Desir, but I also saw jealousy and envy. Her voice and talent cleared my mind of impure thoughts and the words were like an angel forgiving me of sins, I relaxed in my chair and allowed the words to swim in my head, I did not even realize that the performance had finished. The applause was so great the whole of Paris heard it, after acknowledging the gratitude of the audience, she and the other actors walked off, while doing this another man walked on, in ash black trousers, black waistcoat and red robes his presence was so immense that it was obvious that it was Monsieur Jacque Artoir. With a finely groomed ginger, moustache and goat beard gave his chiseled looks an elegant appearance. He started to speak, “I know that many of you have taken pleasure in tonight’s performance, but Mademoiselle Desir will not be accepting visits ce soir. Thank you for your company.”
On his command the theatre emptied, it was a struggle to make my way out of the crowds, being pushed and shoved in every direction. The clawed diamond ring of an aristocratic woman made a hole in my dress; she looked at me down her long nose as if it was my fault that, her ring had cut my dress. I was in no frame of mind to argue with her. I was longing the breath of cold air to enter my lungs, but when I entered the streets, the cold air I desired was laced with drink and vomit. The tavern was still crowded with drunken locals, I ignored the passes made to me and retired to my bed. Alone.
It had been a month since I arrived in Paris. It had past quickly, and already I was scrounging for money, Monsieur Artoir had not answered my letters seeking employment, so I made a little money by joining the tavern prostitutes. They didn‘t pay much. I walked out of my tavern early in the morning without breakfast, my first rent was due and I had no money. The landlady spoke to me as I walked out the door, “Hawthorn, ya rent. 7 francs for the month”,“I don’t have any money, Madame Roch but I should have it soon I am seeing Monsieur Jacque Artoir today, I am hoping to get a job there”. She gave me a patronizing look and nodded her head.I needed money, so I walked to the ‘Grand Guignol’ to meet Monsieur Artoir. I tapped with aspiration on the window; a house cleaner answered it, “Sorry Love the theatre ain’t open; come back later.” “I want to speak to Monsieur Artoir, about a job at the theatre, I won’t be long only I had to see him, I wouldn‘t come only he hasn‘t answered my letters” she let me in after constant pleading. The great hall looked different in daylight, instead of the dark burgundy silk curtains you see at night, it was royal crimson draping over solid oak panels. “Monsieur Artoir in through there.” the house cleaner said, pointing at a door in the corner. I tapped nervously. “Entr!” a deep voice called from within, I entered.The office followed the same colour scheme, as the rest of the theatre the only colour that stood out was the navy blue velvet jacket with teal blue pinstripe pattern. He had not looked at when he addressed me in his arrogant tone, “Well?”, “Monsieur, my name in Mary Hawthorn. Throughout my life I have dreamed of a life on the stage…” he interrupted me in mid flow “so you want to act here do you?” “If you please. Did you not receive my letters?” He got up from behind his desk and poured himself a glass of crystal red wine, “No I don‘t read the letters that are sent to me, hence the reasons why I don‘t receive many.” He continued drinking his wine and looking up and down my body analyzing my every move “Girl. You have come here, to my home and theatre with no references, wearing a hand me down dresses and expect me to hire you on first impressions.” I looked at my scuffed shoes in shame swept my hair back from my eyes holding back the tears and spoke, “I am … Sorry I wasted your time Monsieur. I will see myself out.” No sooner had turned my back when he spoke again, “Wait. You’re a belle woman, come back tomorrow I’m sure I could fined you a place.” I smiled in excitement “Thank you Monsieur thank you”.I walked through the main hall again, dancing with joy, when Claudia Desir walked through the doors. “Mademoiselle Desir you gave the best performance yet last night, I envy your talent.” she smiled acknowledging the complement, but when she spoke her voice was laced with venom, “A lot envy me child, with my voice, wealth and of course reputation. Have you spoken with the master?” “Yes Mademoiselle he has offered me place among the other actresses, I am to come back tomorrow.” she looked down her long upper class nose at me, with those emerald eyes piercing into my tender flesh, she spoke again “Umm well I can’t imagine you getting a very large role.
You are only a beginner. You are what is known as an amateur to the profession, but you are brave to start at the top.” she strutted away from me with her head held high as I walked towards the door. I heard her shout at the maid, “Have you seen that idiotic son of mine?” her tone of voice was both powerful and stern a feeling of resentment, “Non Mademoiselle have you tried the basement?” she gave me one more look and walked into the office of Monsieur Artoir. I knew Claudia Desir well her background and childhood; she was the daughter of a French entrepreneur her father who brought her up alone, her mother died of tuberculosis when she was two. She was educated in a private girl school that is where she learnt to sing and act, but at the age of 16, her Father died and she left home and joined the theatre. I was one of her biggest admirers, but I did not know she had a son, but I was sure to meet him during my time at the theatre. I walked out of the theatre standing tall, it began to rain but I wasn‘t going to let it ruin my day, and that night I dreamed of the ‘Grand Guignol’ and the future, it stored for me, to act alongside Claudia Desir in one of the famous theatres in Paris. I did not care about the performances that are performed there; it will be a live changing experience and one that I will never forget.
© Copyright 2017 Emie Ruth. All rights reserved.
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