Directors' Choice Award Winner
by Thomas Blow
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Liberty is the story of the origin of the Statue of Liberty, from conception to birth. But, as Victor Hugo wrote about the Statue, “Form is nothing without the spirit – with the idea, it is everything.” So, to care about Lady Liberty, how she came about, and why she is the way she is, we must embrace the Idea, and see it, as they did in earlier times, as bread to the starving. Millions packed one suitcase, left everything based on a prayer they would be Free, and their first reward was to see the Statue gleaming in sunlight. Liberty can't be seen or touched, that is the province of the Statue – a visualization. To dramatize this, Lady Liberty must, somehow, live.
The Statue stems from a political plot to achieve freedom in France and the decades- long voyage of the sculptor as part of this plot. It is also a love story, not only with his Cinderella-esque wife, but with the Statue herself. Mixed in with this is the manipulations of the sculptor's mother, whose face lives as the face of the Statue.
There were many challenges to the Statue. To embody these challenges, I invented an antagonist, Aubert, the epitome of Old-World thinking, despiser of Liberty. But I did not invent Napoleon’s nephew, Louis Napoleon, whose despotic rule created the hunger in France for Freedom. I did not invent Professor Edouard Laboulaye, leader of the liberal movement in France that used the Statue as a rallying point to bring republican democracy. I did not invent the events that molded the sculptor Auguste Bartholdi, such as war service under Garibaldi, the greatest Freedom Fighter of the 19th century, the first superhero. I did not invent the role of Gustav Eiffel, who designed the internal structure as he would later design his famous Tower in Paris.
And I did not invent the role of Joseph Pulitzer, the savior of the Statue, who used his New York World newspaper to rally and complete the funding of the Statue’s pedestal. In fact, in writing this musical, I invented as little as possible, with a sensitivity to the responsibility involved in depicting the Idea Of America.
The best lines are taken from history, Laboulaye’s novel Paris in America, Daudet’s story “The Last Lesson”, and the complete text of the Emma Lazarus poem. As in history, Bartholdi, after his war experiences, specifically decided not to depict Liberty as in the Delacroix painting, “Liberty Leading the People”, with a weapon. Instead, Liberty would bear the Torch of Enlightenment and the Crown Of Wisdom, with the Chains Of Slavery at her feet and a Tablet consecrating the Declaration Of Independence as the key instrument in inculcating human rights in law. This is treated in a storybook sense, with music that evokes the period and the nations involved. One might say the score was reminiscent of a combination of Cohan, Porter, and Romberg, with a dash of Victor Young. Also, the villain invented for this piece, to represent the many challenges that had to be overcome and the Old-World attitude toward The Idea, is written along the lines of Captain Hook, as he delights in Power and Evil. At the end, there is a fantastic suggestion, visually depicted, that Lady Liberty is, indeed, alive.
Cast & Character Descriptions
6 Men, Two Women, Mixed Chorus (minimum 6-4). Cast minimum: 18.
LABOULAYE (Edouard), Father of the French Third Republic. Senator. “Delicate, olive-skinned man. Kindness radiated from his beardless face, gentle and eloquent under thinning brown hair, which smoothly fell onto his neck. Except at dinner, one never saw Laboulaye without his frock coat, buttoned up to the chin. At first sight, the scholar looked like an Abbe. He was a member of the Institute, professor of law, businessman, popular author, chairman of the French Anti- slavery Committee, and America’s most ardent advocate in France.” (Pauli) Wrote a three- volume history of the United States. Baritone.
BARTHOLDI (Auguste), Sculptor of the Statue. During play, 30s-60s. Somewhat slight of stature. Inwardly unsure and insecure, despairing, anti-heroic. Decisive artistically but not socially. During this play he embraces the meaning and Spirit of Liberty. Tenor.
CHARLOTTE, Auguste’s mother, the face of the statue. An imposing lady; a teacher who knows how to handle men; a gracious entertainer. The guiding light of Bartholdi’s career. Alto (husky Edith Piaf voice).
JEANNE, Model for Statue’s body, later Auguste’s wife. Plain-looking but unspoiled, joyful girl. Soprano.
AUBERT DUCROT, District Prefect of Police, a hungry and ambitious intriguer, the villain of this piece. A man who believes himself thoroughly conversant with the undercurrents of European politics, with a wealth of experience, a sort of secret dossier of chains of circumstances, of inestimable value. Baritone.
LAFAYETTE (Paul de Remusat), Liberal activist. Lover of women! and wine. Great grand-nephew of Marquis de Lafayette. At 33 had seen America, wrote for the Debate, and made a name for himself by a rather lively opposition to the regime. Baritone.
MIXED CHORUS of Tempest-Tossed Wretches, Ancient Egyptians, Soldiers, Gendarmes, French Imperial Ball attendees, Gaget-Gauthier Artisans. Includes CAPTAIN DE SAUNE, REPORTER, other small roles.
Four Roles to be played by the same Master Actor
(Baritone-Bass) or split among the chorus
GIUSEPPE GARIBALDI, themilitary leader who drove out the foreigners, uniting Italy, for the first time, under one king, Victor Emanuel II, then went home, refusing any reward. Freedom fighter for many world causes. “Not at all intellectual…believed and declaimed … extraordinarily innocent in some respects … no bad ruler…There was no greater master of guerilla warfare and none more successful.” (Britannica) Uses cane. 60s.
COUNT de CHAMBORD, the Legitimist Pretender to the French Throne. A strange and isolated romantic who lived in exile in Schloss Frohsdorf, Austria, (or in the winter months, in Venice,) lost in clouds of mysticism and medievalism. A naïve and “dimwitted” figure who regarded the whole 19th century as a tragic aberration, and “never even learned to tie his own shoelaces.” Dogmatically intransigent. Declined the French throne because he could not give up his grandfather’s flag. 70s.
GUSTAV EIFFEL, architect, builder of Statue’s understructure, later the builder of Paris’ great Tower. “An engineer whose nerves are in no way inferior to his muscles. He has no fear of anything or anybody; when he has decided on a thing, all the world may strive vainly to keep him from it.” (Trachtenberg) 40s.
JOSEPH PULITZER, Publisher of New York WORLD newspaper, establisher of Pulitzer Prize. He saved the statue by raising the money to complete the base by running an unprecedented campaign in which he published the name of every contributor and many of their letters. Responsible for making the Statue thought of as the People’s statue. “The greatest figure in American journalism…a genius and an eccentric of unique proportions…revolutionized American journalism…by the force of a personality that was as admirable as it was outrageous…a despot, given to thoughtful and generous acts…everyday poured advice, reprimand, and encouragement on his staff.” (Swanberg) Swore fluently. Thick spectacles (blind in later life). 50s.
DR. TRUTH, persecuted journalist, Leader of Chorus of Tempest-Tossed Wretches, later Prefect of Gendarmes of Paris (from Laboulaye’s novel Paris In America).
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