Madame Duverger

Character Givens:
I am Édith Gagnon Duverger, the Baroness Duverger. I am 41 (1847) and have one daughter, Vivianne, 18. We live in the 16th arrondissement of Paris. I married my husband Henri Duverger when I was 18 and he was 40. Vivianne is my life she is my only child. I had 2 miscarriages (19,21) before I had her. I was never attracted to my husband who is 23 years older than me, that is why it is so important for me to find an attractive young husband for Vivianne. I do not and never did find my husband physically attractive like Fernand de Bois D’Enghien. Since I had struggled to get pregnant for 5 years, I used Vivianne as an excuse not to sleep with my husband and devoted my time to her. As a consequence to my non-existing sex life coupled with the reality that my husband is more than half my age, young attractive virginal men are intriguing to me. Henri and my family had neighboring plots of land. My family would go to the land to make sure all was functioning properly. I grew up in Paris, with my father, Fabien Gagnon (deceased); my mother, Cecile Dubois Gagnon (76); and my two brothers Béloni (53) and Gregoire (58). After the death of his first wife, Henri, began searching for a new wife and decided to marry me. Since we were of the same rank, my parents did not hesitate to marry me off. At that point I had fallen in love with Jean Boleau, a 19-year-old boy whose family was working on our land. My marriage to Henry broke his heart, but even after marriage we continued to see each other. He was my first of many love affairs. Our affair ended when he realized that I would never leave my glamorous life. From his first marriage, Henri had two children, but since they were older than 18 they had already gotten married. Henri has done nothing but spoil Vivianne and I but he was never able to fulfill the romantic/physical desires I’ve had. I was never able to fall in love with him.
The play begins in 1890 France. The economy had recently recuperated from its downfall due to the Franco-german war. It is in fact booming along with other technological advances. France continues to be run by the bourgeoisie. Socially and artistically there is a revolution between the older generation and the more modern generation. Literature begins to have themes like sex, prostitutes, the city, delirium, dreams, drugs, and alcohol.

Synopsis: France in 1890 is ruled by the elite, who are obsessed with glamour, but is approaching a generational change as the century comes to an end.
Voice: Her pitch is much higher than mine, especially when she is nervous or anxious. Her rhythm is consistent and smooth even if she's stressed. Her range goes from low to high in the same sentence, but it is always smooth.
Movement: Her center is high, somewhere around her chest/shoulders, whereas mine is in my stomach. She glides, which means her movements are smooth. She does not move her hips and hardly moves her lower body. Most, if not all her movements happen in her upper body. The middle part of her body is very constricted because of the corsets. Her lower body moves very rarely/smoothly because her hips do not move. Her movements are very dance-like (ballerina ish), smooth but controlled. The only part of her upper body that she really moves is her arms. In order to convey a story or an emotion she exaggerates her arm movements like a dancer, but like a ballerina the movements are precise not wild.
Bouzin- He is the first person I meet who is not of my class. He is intrusive and I am not use to that, which is why we do not really get along at the top of our first scene. Once I learn he is a composer I treat him differently because I realize he is one of those modern artist that are eccentric and I know nothing about. His eccentricity is amusing to me and I try my best to understand it, but seeing as I’m from a different class and generation it often becomes hard to do.
The General- I meet the general at Vivianne’s engagement party and find him amusing since he tries to give me what he calls a ticket, in order to stay. Like Bouzin his eccentricity amuses me, but that changes when his aggressiveness causes him to chase after Bouzin and turn my house upside down.
Chenneviette- I don’t mind him at first, he seems like a nice man and has manners, I don’t think much of him. Through out the engagement party I begin to see his overt sex appeal and his seduction of Vivianne which makes me uneasy and ultimately forces me to constantly have Vivianne at my side. After the general chases after Bouzin and I see Cheneviette also run after them, I deem him as barbarous as the rest.
Bois D’Enghien- I’m absolutely smitten with Bois. He is handsome and charming, but most importantly creates a pure/virginal façade, which I really like. I often find myself seducing him, forgetting he is my daughter’s husband to be. His virginity intrigues me because I want to make him a man; he presents the youth and vigor that my husband no longer has.
Fontanet- We are old friends, he basically is family. Although his breath smells bad, I have learned to avoid it without being rude to him. He comforts me when I am the most nervous or stressed. He has probably been there more for me emotionally than my husband has ever been there for me.
Firmin- My relationship with him is very structured and formal. I’m not rude to him I simply expect him to treat me the way a woman of my status would be treated. I’m a very clean and tidy woman, so even after he dusted and fluffed the pillow I had to do it myself, especially because it isn’t my house.
Antonio- I don’t think I ever directly deal with Antonio, but I think of him as similar to the general.
Émile- He has been my servant for many years. He has been loyal to me for many years. He does his work very well, and has never complained. He is not only a servant, but a dear member of the family.
Lantery- We have a formal relationship. I have him do the marriage contract because he is part of one of the most prestigious notaries.
Lucette- I do not know much about her, she is more modern than I am and I try my best to understand her kind. As a present for Vivianne I have her sing at the party, because I think that that is what modern young people like. I treat he better than she deserves, in my mind, and she seems to deserve it until the fight. With that she proves the stereotype of lower classes being uncivilized and I no longer like her.
Viviane- She is my life. She is my only child and all I do is for her. I want her to be happy and I try to do all I can to please her. I want her to marry Bois because he is all I ever wanted in a man and I don’t want her to marry an old man like I did. I often let her do what she wants, but when I hold a stubborn belief I am strict on her.
Marceline- At first I treat her like a maid because that’s what I think she is. After I am corrected I treat her in the same way I do Lucette, which changes as Act 2 comes to an end.
Miss Betting- I do not understand her and do my best to communicate with her but I just give up.
I spent all day preparing everything for the wedding. I called Lantery to make sure he was going to be on time and that all the wedding contract preparations were ready. I did my best attempt to communicate with Miss Betting and ask her how much needed to be done on the wedding day. I was unsuccessful and Viviane was not there to translate so I did not insist and figured I should wait until later to ask. I was going to talk to Viviane about marriage and what to expect but she was sleeping and I didn’t want to wake her, plus I need to go to Mademoiselle Gautier’s house early. After Breakfast I headed over to her house. I felt out of place when my chauffeur arrived in front of her house. The area and the house seemed so unfamiliar.
I had the most unusual experience at Mademoiselle Gautier's house. I needed to go somewhere familiar, somewhere I know how everything functions, and I'm in control. I headed home, I needed to tell someone my most unusual encounter with what I assumed was a modern artist. I attempted to tell Viviane, but for fear of ruining the surprise I did not bother, instead I told Emile who was at first concerned but later found it as amusing as I. I later headed toward my bedroom where I found Viviane and Miss Betting.
I told Emile my experience with Bouzin, at first he was concerned but later found it as amusing as I. I headed toward my bedroom where I found Viviane and Miss Betting. I told her I need to speak to her, but seeing as she was busy I told her I'd be back later. I changed in Viviane's bedroom, and when I was done I went back to my bedroom to talk to Viviane.
I was distraught to see Bois's true identity. That purity and virginity that I so much admired was all a lie. I was unconsolable. I cannot believe that the man my daughter is engaged to is a ladies' man. All the aspirations I had for Vivianne were ruined, no one would marry her now, not with this scandal.


-My inspiration is my daughter Viviane. All I do is for her with the intent to make her happy, the way I never was. I have a picture of Viviane as a child. In the picture she is listening to seashells. It is one of my favorites of her. She is not necessarily smiling, but she is happy. Her hair is and her eyes remain the same gorgeous color brown as when she was a child. I appreciate this picture because it reminds me of times when her happiness depended on making her laugh. Making her happy seemed so effortless, now that is no longer true. She has a mind of her own, thoughts that I frankly have no idea where she gets, making her happy is much more difficult now.
Dear Henri,
You are always away tending to our land and miss out on what is happening with Viviane, so I will inform you. I have found her wonderful husband, Fernand de Bois D'Enghien. He is from a fine family, which I know is what you want to hear. He is also very handsome, which will make it easier for Viviane to get use to the idea of marrying him. But Henri, I am afraid she will not be happy. Viviane is our only child, and her happiness is very important to me. It is not that Fernand will not make her happy, because he is absolutely perfect for her; I fear that she has other plans in mind. You know how Viviane is, she has unusual ideas, and I try to keep up with her, but it is very difficult. It was easier when we got married; happiness was not a priority, but times have changed Henri. I have not spoken to her about the marriage, since I informed her about it. I do not know how she feels or if she has any questions about married life. Sometimes I feel, Henri, that I cannot get to her. She is in a completely different world and the more I try to be a part of it the more I feel out of it. I think she prefers Miss Betting, you remember, the deaf-mute governess we hired. Maybe it is just me. I am getting old, I can no longer keep up with the younger generation. I hope all is well. Viviane cannot wait to see you.
Act I Notes:

  • louder, articulate
  • leave newspaper behind for Lucette and Bois to find

Act II Notes:

  • faster
  • big demand line tells the audience about Viviane as a character
  • More reaction to Fontanet's breath (young star)
  • open up the stage by not being center stage when vivianne is changing
  • walk out then back in for "come along viviane"
  • acknowledge that Lucette sat on Marceline
  • Do not stand behind the flowers

I think what worked was my sense of character. Although she could always use more detail, I feel that I have managed to embody Madame Duverger. I think that for the most part my relationship with other people improved. It could still use more detail, but I think there is a clearer distinction between people I encounter frequently and those that I do not. My voice changes depending on who I am dealing with, and I feel like that that was more apparent on this run. I definitely struggle with articulation. Madame is much more articulate than I am. The issue is also that, in having a high pitched voice (which is unnatural for me), I seem to lose some of that articulation. Some of my words have accents to them like, Fontanet, along, absolutely, and scandalous. I say these words in an almost english accent, which I feel is a result of my lack of specificity in my speech.
In order to fix these issues, I must do vocal work and tongue twisters as part of my warm-up. I am limited physically as to what it is I could do to distinguish my relationships, so I rely heavily on my voice and my physical gestures (only from the arms up). That being said, Madame's voice should tell one a lot about how she feels about someone.

  • Parasol: I pick it up in the costume closet. After Act I, I place the parasol in my dressing room. The parasol is significant to my character because reinforces her status. Women of her status, during this time period, were afraid of getting tanned and used parasols to protect their faces from the sun rays.
  • Business Card: I pick the card up from the prop table. During the scene I give Firmin my card, after I am off stage, Barrett gives me the card back, so that I could place it back on the prop table and use it for the next rehearsal. The card is significant to my character, because only important people had business card, people who are worth contacting.
  • locket necklace: This locket was given to me by my husband on the day Viviane was born. It reminds me of Viviane. Inside there is a picture of her. I never take it off.

*gold earrings: These were the earrings my father gave me as a wedding gift. I wear them all the time, I swore to do so after his death.

  • brooch: My mother gave me this brooch. It use to be my great-grandmothers, she was the epitome of elegance. I wear it on my purple outfit, because it makes me feel like I could radiate the same elegance she did.
  • feathered black hat: I wear this hat every time I leave the house. I like it because it is elegant and chic, but the feathers makes it fun and youthful.
  • purple outfit: I use this for both Act I and III, it is the outfit I use to go outside. It is my most formal and elegant attire.
  • green dress: I use this dress only for Act II. It is much simpler and comfortable than my purple outfit, I only wear at home.

Today is Viviane's engagement party, and I have so much to do. I woke up early to visit Mademoiselle Gautier, a night club singer. Although I do not consider that profession particularly reputable, she is a modern artist, and I thought Viviane might like her. I do not know much about France's modern art, I sing opera and waltz, so nightclub singing is foreign to me. When I arrived at Mademoiselle Gautier's house I was greeted by her butler. I waited 15 minutes with another man, a man called Bouzin. He was very frantic and would not stay still. I tried to calm him down by answering all of his questions, but I seem to have only made the matter worse because he took it as an invitation to treat me familiarly. He folded recklessly my figaro which I had so carefully unfolded to read because he wanted to show me an article about another singer, something about footsie wootsie. After which he clarified was Mademoiselle Maya who he had written a song for. Then the butler came in with some very elaborate floral arrangement, held by a gorgeous young man, and Monsieur Bouzin started harassing the butler. I did not wait very long to interrupt him, I asked to be announced, I am the baroness after-all and I am in a hurry. Monsieur Bouzin insisted on playing me one of songs and after much hesitation I agreed. It was dreadful, and edging on unbearable, but this might just be because I do not know much about modern music, I'm sure viviane would love it. The butler finally came back to tell Monsieur Bouzin how awful his song was, to which he stormed out and came back to throw out the flowers, but opted not to, kissed my hand and said good-bye. I asked if i could be seen but was informed that she could not. Who did she think she was keeping me waiting and then blowing me off? I decided instead to come back within an hour. I exited her house and asked my chauffeur to take me on a ride around the plaza an come back to this same address in an hour. That one hour was the only time I was going to have off that entire day. My day was filled with wedding arrangements, I decided that a stroll in the plaza would clear my mind. After only 35 minutes of strolling and riding I was done, I knew I had told Mademoiselle Gautier's butler i'd be back within the hour, but I felt I was wasting time so I decided to arrive early. I arrived 10 minutes prior to when I was suppose to, but it did not seem to matter I would still have to wait. Eventually she was able to greet me and accepted my invitation.
I arrived home from having visited Lucette Gautier and Viviane and Miss Betting were still not done. I changed into a new dress, especially for the occasion, but still they were not done. I gave them more time, but fed up with waiting I entered the room. She looked stunning, I had to keep from crying, my daughter getting married! I had to tell Miss Betting to adjust more parts of the dress, she was not doing enough and the wedding was in a couple days. I attempted to help Viviane convince Miss Betting of staying for the party, but there was no use. I cannot communicate with defs, although sometimes I'm convinced she in fact could hear. After she left, I tried talking to Viviane about what she would experience on her wedding night, but every time I attempted to gear our conversation in that direction I realized how innocent she was. So instead I decided that I could not do it and that her father would be able to do it.
Bois D'Enghien arrived and i did my best to get Viviane interested in him, but she would not budge. He is such a sweet thing, I don't understand why she does not like him. Fontanet arrived, and Fernand became very uneasy, which I did not quite understand. But when Fontanet arrived he rushed over to greet him, I was completely unware they knew each other, but apparently they had had lunch together. Poor Fernand when i asked about the restaurant he got even more nervous, he must be getting cold feet.
Then Lucette Gautier arrived, and with her Monsieur Chenneviette, and her sister Marceline, who I had mistaken for her maid. Her maid was in fact a man, the butler I had met that morning. I showed her where everything was in her dressing room and then showed Monsieur Chenneviette the room where Lucette was going to perform. When I returned to my guests, Mademoiselle informed me that she thought there was a draft. I assured her there wasnt any and had to show her myself. After all that was settled I went in search of Bois, but did not find him. Thinking he might be in the dressing room with the rest of the guests, we decided to return to the dressing room. And as I suspected there he was, but as soon as a I tried introducing him to Mademoiselle Gautier, Monsieur Chenneviette picked me up and then dragged her off. Utterly confused I asked Fernand what was going on, to which he responded that he was preventing me from making a blunder, that Mademoiselle Gautier could not hear the word fiance. When they came back, I was eager to meet her and repair my almost blunder, but Fernand dragged Viviane and I out of the room. He assured us it was something important, he ended up telling us the house needed a lightning rod. Confused and a little annoyed I returned to my guests, where I was greeted by a foreigner, General Irrigua. He spoke funny but was really nice. The notary finally arrived and we all headed out to sign the contract. We waited for Fernand, fed up with waiting I entered the room to see what was taking so long, the notarist behind me, and all of sudden chaos unfolded. The General yells "Poussin," which honestly does not make sense because his name is Bouzin, and then Bouzin becomes frantic and runs out and behind him all the men, except Fontanet. Infuriated I confront Lucette Gautier, but she gives me no concrete answer as to what is happening.
They finally come back and she grabs a hold of Fernand in a manner I do not approve of so I drag her away and inform her of his marriage to Viviane. But that only seem to make it worse, she fainted. After a lot of attention, Bois adviced to give her advice and go and sign the contract, which I completely agreed with and helped get everyone out, especially Viviane who seemed intrigued about what had unfolded. But once again, Fernand had disappeared as soon as we were ready to sign the contract. Fed up with waiting, I called him over, and he reassured me it would only be a minute. After what seemed forever, I decided to bring him over but heard weird noises coming from the room. I had Emile open the door, only to find Bois and Lucette in underwear. He assured me that it was not what I thought, but I felt so disgusted I asked him to leave. The general came in and told him that they would have a battle to death the next morning. He picked up his things and tried saying good bye but I told him not to bother and so he left. I was so embarrassed, I asked the same of Mademoiselle Gautier, I should have expected no better. Fontanet helped all the guest leave and excused himself. I apologized to Viviane about Fernand and headed to my room where I undressed and went to bed. I needed to rest after such a chaotic day.

Before: I want to work on keeping up the pace for the top of Act II. I also would like to keep the same level of detail in my relationships. Continue to change my voice, while still being articulate and giving the audience a good sense of what her relationship is with people.
I was able to keep up my vocal work, and the pace of Act II; but unfortunately I screwed up my lines. My relationships were still strong, but my relationship with the general could be stronger. I learned that I should probably have had more specific goals, and worry about one or two things as opposed to 4. I think overall opening night went well, despite the fact that my dress ripped. That being said, the fact that I was completely oblivious to what had happened, showed how unaffected I am by what goes wrong/the audience's reactions. Since I have never done this level of comedy, getting so many laughs was new, but I managed not to interrupt there laughs even if that meant delaying my line.
Before: I plan to work on lines, I want to not only deliver them verbatim but also articulate better. I would also like to prevent any further costume disasters as best I can. Also keep up voice, physical, relationship work. Open parasol before I walk up the stairs.
This performance went a lot better than the first nights in terms of costume disasters and vocal/relationship work. The pace of Act II was slower than the first nights. I feel like my relationship with Fontanet was not as strong this night as it has been in the past, I need to put more detail into our relationship.
Before: I plan to rock this show! This is my last chance to be Madame, I want to do my best and take advantage of all the work I have done thus far. Strengthen detail of relationship.
After: My lines were worse than the night's before. I think it was a result of the audience's affect. I knew a lot more people in the audience and I let that get to me. So I became less articulate although I still kept the scene going. I was not as focused as I was the first two nights, and although my performance did not appear sloppy, I felt like I was being sloppy. I was not as in the moment as I wish I was, especially Act II. The sloppiness got better in Act III.
If I had the chance to approach this role in a different manner, I would have loved to play her on opposite sides of the spectrum. I found a balance between a madame who is completely seductive and nutty and a madame who is uptight and pompous. I think that although I would not change the madame I created, I would have played with the other two sides of Madame. I would probably have her be a little more unstable: wild/crazy/seductive one minute and uptight/pompous the other. I would probably introduce vocal work earlier on in the process, as well as the aspect of her being dumb. I think that although both of these details came together by the performances, having worked with these aspects of my character sooner would have lead to an even stronger performer. In order to incorporate her dumbness i would read the script more often, nightly. I did not introduce this aspect of her until Maura told me to, and although I had already read the script, further reading would have made me realize that she was not just oblivious, she was dumb. I wish I would have introduced more of the idea of her being married, because I do not think that was clear. I wish I would have known earlier that a key to memorizing and better understanding your character was in reading your script nightly; that would have made it a lot easier to do. I considered myself to be very committed. I had moments where I broke for personal reasons, but ultimately, I did not let that determine the outcome of my work. In rehearsal and in performance, I made offers and facial expressions that self-conscious people would be unwilling to do. I was unafraid to do whatever it took to play this woman, and that shows my commitment to my work. Although I turn in my journals late, I am more on top of my out-of-rehearsal work than I was last year. I turned in and did my givens earlier than i would have (which means on time), and that turned out to be very helpful. I was also much more detailed with my work than I have been in other years. My performance journal is fairly complete. I responded to all of Maura's notes and have every journal accounted for. As an actress I was able to have more detail in my performance, which was a result of more diligence and focus. That being said, I could not be prouder of the way Madame turned out. I was hesitant about playing Madame because I did not like her character at first, but I learned to love her and had a lot of fun playing her. I put in a lot of work into this performance and it paid off. I will be leaving this performance knowing that not only do I have the skill to make a character come to life, but also am capable of putting in the work that is necessary to do so.

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