Thursday, April 29, 2010
Theaters of rue de la Gaîté
Marquee, rue de la Gaîté, Paris, April 2010.
Theatre Rive Gauche, rue de la Gaîté, Paris, April 2010.
In Montparnasse, off rue de Maine, you will find a narrow alley lined with theaters that date back to the cabarets and music halls of 19th century Paris. The place is called rue de la Gaîté, the street of gaiety.
I found this street by chance during an early morning stroll after having breakfast at the public market. I knew nothing of its history, but was captivated by the marquees and the fire engine red facade of Comédie-Italienne, the last remaining theater in France that stages plays written exclusively by Italians.
While I took pictures of the marquee painting by Clayette above the Theatre Rive Gauche, an old lady watched me with amusement and explained its history to me -- in French -- saying it was a copy, but a good one (if I understood her correctly).
I realized later on, with the aid of Google, that I’d been walking along the street that was the heart of bohemian Paris, the Paris of Henry Miller and Ernest Hemingway, Doisneau and Brassai, the Paris I've romanticized in my mind for so long. On rue de la Gaîté, in its cafes and music hall stages, the likes of Josephine Baker, Kiki (Man Ray's muse), Edith Piaf, Juliette Greco and Jacques Brel entertained writers, artists and intellectuals who came to Paris from around the world to live la vie bohème.
That evening, I returned to rue de la Gaîté to toast my sister's birthday. We sat outdoors at a cafe with multicolored seats, talked about our loved ones, and soaked ourselves in a most perfect April evening.