Theatrical Tour of the Hotel de Lauzun


History, for so many people seems a to be a dull litany of dates and trends until suddenly some place, event or personnage from the past literally collides into your own past. That’s how I felt last Thursday May 10, 2007 when we sat in the Salle des Guardes at the Hotel de Lauzun.

Our guide Marc Soleranski, or perhaps I should say the former owner of the Hotel the Marquis de Pimodan, resurrected for this particular visit, had begun describing some of the attributes of the townhouses of this era as we politely sat in the large salon – “Houses in these days were built with one room leading to another – or as we call it – ‘en filade’. With that, the Marquis opened up the double doors which perfectly framed another set of gilded doors – which led to yet another set of gilded doors.
For as many times as I’ve visited Versailles, I ‘ve never experienced this moment of total awe. Perhaps it was the hotel particulier’s combination of elegance and intimacy but more than that, I was suddenly thrown back into the antechamber of Alexandre Dumas’ Three Musketeers. “And what is an antechamber?” I remember asking a teacher back in junior high school.
Suddenly I was in that antechamber and living in the era – or so it seemed. That is what can happen during a ‘theatrical visit’ to one of Paris’s rare examples of 17th century interiors. Actors can achieve what no typical tour guide can do – they alone have the mystical power of resurrecting personalities from their past. These were rooms that were meant to be filled with people. As Marc mentioned, “17th-century art had a real fear of empty space.” Every inch of wall space here is rich with hand-painted wood paneling, gilded, or mirrored.
During our guided visit, we were accompanied not only by the Marquis de Pimodan. who resided here during the 1774 to the end of the French Revolution, but also the resurrected Duc de Lauzun (Daniel Pepperosa, actor, and professor of Commedia dell-Arte near Fountainbleau), Le duc de Saint-Simon, Lauzun’s brother-in-law, and Madame de Saint-Simon, Lauzun-s sister-in-law. (played by Sylvie and Jean-Philippe, members of the Lame du Marais fencing association).
Not only has the visit changed my perspective about how historic places should – or can be visited, but also how I have thought about actors and acting. It is a completely different experience to be standing face to face with an actor. Usually there is either the distance between a the stage and wherever one is seated – or in movies – the experience is even more removed. Close at hand, I have a much greater appreciation for the art of acting – and the challenge of acting – without the aid of lighting, retakes, directors, etc.
Moliere would have been proud to know that his craft carries on in the same tradition.