A larger version can be found here. Meanwhile, just bask in that wheel, those upthrust legs, that spangled darkness. This is theatre; this is why it’s so really very terribly fun to do and go see and dream about; write about. The denizens Under the Poppy would and do thoroughly approve.
There’s something oddly lovely about mourning jewelry, and the promise of ease and surcease – if only temporary – that the poppy flower holds makes it a natural for the same; sexual languor, too, if we broaden the definition just a drop. And if you find yourself in Ottawa, you can go to the museum and hear about Victorian mourning, hair brooches, and other artifacts of lost desire.
In the landscape of Under the Poppy, a lover’s eye, a goldfish brooch, a silver chain made of frail paper, and a red journal of poetry all play important roles as gifts and touchstones; most important, perhaps, are a pair of rings exchanged, and a little white knife. When is a ring not just a ring, when is a knife an artifact of true love? When it carries the freight of that love over years, over gulfs of separation, over desires that cannot be fulfilled now or perhaps ever. Life gives us these touchstone artifacts, and we make them real by our love. Do you have one in a drawer, an envelope, around your finger, in your heart?
More than once in interviews, I’ve been asked a certain question about the primary relationship in Under the Poppy, the lifelong love between Rupert and Istvan, and that question is always some form of How do you know what it’s like – know how to depict in words this consuming, tender, bruised and bruising love, so it can become real for the reader?
The short answer is that that’s what writers do, artists do, filmmakers poets playwrights do: struggle and strive to make real in a chosen medium the way life is: its people, animals, breathing fields at midnight, broken drainpipes, you name it, that’s the job.
Tom Cardamone, in his excellent review/interview in Icarus, speaks of the couple this way:
“Thank God the lovers in Under the Poppy, Istvan and Rupert, run roughshod over conventional queer characterizations in too many ways to mention; they are the same shadow in a criminal alley of desperate living.”
I love that phrase, “the same shadow” – in three words it gives you a lifetime’s affinity, it tells you that these two men are one another in a primal way. But the phrase “conventional queer characterization” makes me note that the question How do you know also carries a kind of assumption: How do you, straight female writer of the 21st century, know what it’s like for two gay men, for lovers of another time, for people in such rootless, occasionally quite dangerous, circumstances, to love and to live?
Which brings in the other short answer: Love is love, with all its attendant ecstasy, fury, comfort, and pains. Whom have you loved? So you know, too.
If you want to talk gorgeous, I had a rockin’ chat recently with Detroit-area purveyor Robin Richardson of Ivy’s Custom Corsetry, who knows the ins and outs of corsets as well or better than any genteel Victorian lady, and with whom I agreed that wearing this lovely creation might reveal to you a super power you didn’t even know you had. She can make one just for you, too, to sport at the brothel or any place else seems good to you. (Tiara extra, natch.)
The thousand words each of these pictures are worth (though if I were a better photographer they might be worth even more) would make a version of the story of artist Cynthia Greig’s “New Eden”: Isabelle Raymond, the ravished and the ravishing, the upending of roles, the dark of a small room lit by false gaslight and existing partly, fully, only in the viewer’s mind. (If you can, go and see her show at Oakland University.)
And in one of those amazing winks that are so much more than coincidence, one of Cynthia Greig’s images, of two beautiful men onstage, lost in one another, has been tacked above my own desk for months…. Long live the muse!
Common Language Bookstore in Ann Arbor notes that Under the Poppy is on their Top 5 bestseller list again this month! We’re in fast company and we like it. Another signing event may be in the works; details TK.
Our director, Diane Cheklich, is part of this production; shooting begins this week. Please enjoy our hospitality, Kristin Chenoweth and Matthew Modine. Hope you like velvety pearl-grey skies.
And for those who’ve asked (more than once; you know who you are), if you need that copy of Under the Poppy signed by yours truly, email me, puppetgirl AT underthepoppy.com, and we’ll put our top hats together and make it happen.
And who wouldn’t want to be a thing at play here? Wouldn’t you love to be seated before these curtains, waiting for the show to begin? Clive Hicks-Jenkins has the creational details at his Artlog …. Which reminds me, let’s all book early for Great Small Works’ Toy Theatre Festival this year.