…almost miss seeing Fanny Ardant in L’année des pensées magiques.
1. Start watching an episode of Lark Rise to Candleford half an hour before you plan to leave. Pause it to wash dishes and get ready to leave.
2. Realize that you never printed out your online order confirmation that you’ll need to redeem your ticket at the theater. Plug in the printer to the computer. Open the document and click print. Wonder why it’s not printing.
3. Unplug the empty camera cord from the computer.
4. Plug in the printer for real this time. Print out confirmation and stuff it into your purse. Leave your room.
5. Realize just how far away this particular theater is when you live on the southern-most periphery of Paris. Contemplate two equally long routes–RER B to Denfert-Rochereau-#4 métro to Barbès Rochechouart-#2 métro to Pigalle, or Tram line #3 (which you have never taken) to Porte de Versailles-#12 métro to Pigalle. In a split-second decision, choose Option #2 as the tram pulls up to Cité Universitaire.
6. Finally arrive at Pigalle. Confidently turn right on Place de Clichy as indicated by your shiny new Paris arrondissement map.
7. Walk briskly.
8. Pause for a moment to get your bearings. Realize that you have been walking briskly in the wrong direction. Turn around.
9. Walk briskly. (Oh, and it’s raining, by the way.)
10. Push your way, with your umbrella and unwieldy-as-ever big black purse, through a crowd of drinking and smoking people standing waiting to get into some unappealing Montmartre bar.
11. Finally reach the intersection, where there is, wonder of wonders, a sign with an arrow stating “Théâtre de l’Atelier.” Reflect on how smart Paris is to direct lost theatre-goers, especially in Montmartre.
12. Walk briskly. Uphill.
13. Arrive at the theater, having sweated through your sweater-dress, which you put on earlier imagining that it would be cold out after it rained all day. How wrong you were.
14. Redeem your ticket. Discover that your seat is in the 2nd row.
15. Wait fifteen minutes while most of the rest of the audience saunters in, and then another five while most of the people in the balcony move down into the orchestra, and people in the orchestra section move into private boxes.
16. Savor the cold air that emanates from the stage when the curtain comes up.
17. Watch Fanny Ardant be fabulous for two hours from a distance of mere yards.
P.S. OMG, blogosphere, I was mere yards from Fanny Ardant last night. I think about that play (which, if you weren’t sure, is the French translation of The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion, from her memoir), and I think about Vanessa Redgrave doing it in New York, and I think that while Fanny Ardant is younger that Vanessa Redgrave, she’s exactly the legendary actress you want for that job. I understood much more of the French than I thought I would, partly because most of it is very colloquial, and partly because I knew the (true, of course) story from having read reviews of both the memoir when it came out and the play when it opened. Anyway, Ms. Ardant was heartbreaking and at times really very funny, to say nothing of beautiful and timeless. For me seeing famous people, and especially those whom I admire, onstage is less thrilling than the thought that when the play is over, they’ll be backstage as themselves. (It’s like walking past the Kennedy Center knowing that somewhere in the building are Cate Blanchett and Hugo Weaving, getting ready for a performance of Uncle Vanya.)
And then I left feeling like there was nothing better than a great evening of theater in any language, especially when you walk out into the night and you’re in Montmartre–even if it takes an hour to get home. Midnight in Paris, indeed!