November 27, 2012
Jessica Chastain and Dan Stevens visit the Merchant's House Museum: The New Yorker

Pretty pointless article (click through for the whole thing), but I found the Dan parts amusing. He was pretty much the only one who was making smartass comments throughout the whole tour… LOL. Everyone else seemed to be asking genuine questions.

Endearing or annoying? Probably much higher probability of the former in person (his castmates from the Heiress seem to genuinely like him), but therein lies one source of our problem with Dan these days: seems pretty great in person, but sometimes comes off quite wrong in print… 

A young tour guide, Emily Wright, began by explaining that the house had been owned by Seabury Tredwell, a wealthy hardware merchant. (“There are not people named Seabury anymore,” Stevens whispered.) Tredwell and his wife, Eliza, moved in with their seven children in 1835. An eighth, Gertrude, was born five years later, and occupied the house until she died, at ninety-three. Like Catherine Sloper, she never married. “There is a story that she had once had a suitor, but he was Catholic and her father disapproved,” Wright said. “She swore that if she couldn’t marry him she would never marry.”

“But Catherine is not based on Gertrude,” Gardiner interjected. “We know that for a fact. But the parallel is identical.”

Wright explained that the family room was mostly a “hangout space.” “Any place you see bare wood, it’s only because we’re in the midst of doing a lot of research,” she said. “It sounds tedious, but there’s a lot you can learn from looking at floor boards.”

The actors, fanning themselves with brochures, moved to the kitchen. “This primarily would have been a servants’ space,” Wright continued. The sink water came from a backyard cistern, which would have been considered a luxury. Wright gestured to a plastic rat near the stove: “Contamination would have been a constant struggle.”

Moisés Kaufman, the play’s director, pointed to a row of curlicued bells: “Can you tell us about those?”

“Have you not seen ‘Downton Abbey,’ Moisés?” Stevens said.

They ascended to the parlor (gasoliers, pianoforte), where the Tredwells received guests. “If you wanted to keep in touch with your friends and acquaintances, you would go calling,” Wright said. A visitor would present a card to the parlor maid, who would show it to the lady of the house. Eliza would then send word that she was “not at home” (code for “not receiving guests”) or come down for conversation. “And since you came to see Eliza,” Wright went on, “that means that now Eliza has to go to your house and see you. And then after she comes to your house, you have to come back here and see her again. It’s a never-ending cycle of social obligation.” (Stevens: “There’s no block function.”)

Chastain, who had her rain-soaked hair in a bun, asked, “So, if someone just kept calling on you without you returning, that was very uncommon?”

“Yes, it would have been rude,”

Wright said, “If you failed to meet those social obligations, it would really impact your place in society.”

Virginia Kull, who plays the maid, asked about male visitors: “For a private audience with the lady, would that require permission?” (Yes, Wright said, but “in practice, as today, there’s a little bit more leeway when it comes to young love.”)

Upstairs in the master bedrooms, Wright stood beside a small metal tub that looked like an upside-down top hat. The water for bathing would have likely been cold, and soap was unscented. “So you can imagine how terrific everyone smelled in the nineteenth century.”

“Is that a toilet?” Chastain asked, noticing a chamber pot. She made a face that said: “Yikes.”

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