The Ikea on the River

Yesterday there was a matinee of Christmas Carol and the hub was filled with people dressed as Dickensian orphan children checking their facebook pages.

And that's just one of many surreal moment to come as I embark on my six month internship in the literary department of the Guthrie Theater. I'm about four days in and so far so good. I'm eager to see how this massive operation functions and secretly most excited about the comp tickets. Most of the work so far has been playing footnote tag between editions of Henry V and learning lots of ways to deprecate the French.

So far, my favorite dramaturgical tidbit involves not good King Harry, but his overseas counterpart, the King of France. Although overshadowed in the play by the Dauphin (who's actually a combination of three different dauphins, as they kept dying off during the campaign), King Charles VI or, wait for it, "Charles the Mad" is just obscenely fascinating.

After someone attempted to kill a close friend of his, he began having fits of, well, madness. He sometimes didn't recognize his wife or family, tried to kill his chamberlains when spooked by loud noises, thought his name was George from time to time. He also went through periods where he believed he was made of glass and would not let anyone touch him and he'd try to protect himself so he wouldn't break.

He was also, of course a party animal, and at a ball thrown by the Queen, he and some other Lords dressed as wild men in shaggy hemp costumes. Because of the clear fire hazard this posed in a pre-electric castle, the torch bearers were placed at the far ends of the room. Then the King's brother, who clearly took after him, burst in fashionably late, grabbed a torch and ran up to the dancers to try and see who they were.

Needless to say,it was a hot time in the old town that night.

I actually prefer the other miniature, below because the musicians are still playing, everyone looks so very unimpressed, and the little yappy dog is just making everything worse.

Stupid yappy dog.

Anyway, as everyone was running around on fire, one quick thinking duchess did what any good French aristocrat of the time would do and threw her skirt over one of the dancers, ostensibly to smother the flames.

The man she saved? King Charles VI. Four of the other lords died (oops). And the event is known as Le Bal des Ardents or "Ball of the Burning Men."

Dude. You can't make this stuff up. Hooray for research!


SK said…
So I forgot you had a blog, and then I remembered, and I discovered this post. And I thought you might like to know some more Mad Charles trivia that I learned at the Chateau de Vincennes, where he spent some time. For one thing, he spent all their money so after he died, his son had to melt all the old church bells down to make gold, leaving only two bells left in the whole region from that time period. Also - now this could be another king, but I think it was him - everyone was fighting over where to bury him when he died, so they split him into three parts (I think the head, the entrails, and everything else?) and buried part in England, part in France, and the third part in one of those two countries. OK, vague anecdote but it's really awesomely gross!

Also I played King Charles in high school in "The Lark," by Jean Anouilh, so I have a special fondness for him. There are really awesome/embarrassing pictures of it here.

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