The show is called Cocteau & Colette at the Grand Véfour, a two-person play that shares an intimate portrait of these two remarkable figures of 20th Century France and their unique friendship that blossomed over their years living as neighbors in the Palais Royal. The staged reading of the new play by William Emboden, will take place on June 23 at 7pm in the West Hollywood Public Meeting Room & Council Chambers.
I’ve known and admired Cocteau over the years, and now I am becoming more familiar with the incredible talent and spirit of Colette, who is considered by some as France’s greatest female writer.
Colette was indeed a very accomplished and prolific author. You may have had contact with some of her works, like that of “Gigi” which was made into a Lerner-Loewe musical and Oscar-winning film of the same name. There was also a recent film of “Cheri” starring Michelle Pfieffer. But those works watered down the full power of her material, and the bold, revealing and mostly autobiographical based accounts of her experiences as a woman who defined herself and her sexuality in her own terms.
It took her years of struggle to gain her status in the world, but she earned it through the array of ground-breaking literary works. During her first marriage to “Willy” she was locked in her room and forced to write. He published these “collaborations” under his name alone. She finally broke free of the relationship, and changed her name solely to that of Colette (she was born Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette). During her life praise and scorn were equally directed her way. But by 1945, she was the first woman to receive a chair with the Academie Goncourt, a high honor in the literary world.
Although she married three husbands and bore a child with her second, she details many of her lesbian affairs in her writings as the loves of her life. In her younger years she was an accomplished stage actress and a performer in the Music Halls. There she met and loved a fellow dancer, Polaire, and the cross-dressing Missy. Colette herself was known for wearing a man’s suit before Marlene Detrich was internationally known for it. She was called a "vile creature of the flesh" for publishing "Les Plasiers" and her book "The Pure and the Impure" gave readers what she called "an investigation into the nature and laws of the erotic life." She was a brave woman, and truly revolutionary as an early feminist before the larger movement.
William Emboden’s script does a fantastic job of introducing both characters to unfamiliar audience. And R. SKY Palkowitz does a wonderful job of embodying her daring spirit. It's a role that seems quite suited for the Delusional Diva, a unique character herself! I’ll leave you now with a couple quotes that can give you sense of Colette’s spirit:
"When I love anything, I love it utterly. If you knew how I embellish everything I love, and all the pleasure I get out of loving! If you could understand the wonderful mixture of strength and weakness with which the things I love fill me! It's what I call the caress of happiness." - Colette
I also found this quote very amusing to me - it is from Colette's second husband, Henry de Jouvenal, toward the decline of their relationship: "You cannot imagine what it is like to live with a woman who always has bare feet." (alluding to Colette's preferred wearing of sandals). I guess he and I would not have hit it off so well.