Brief Play # 46: A Headstrong Nadar

The play is set in Paris—and party directly over Paris—in 1864.  Just the year before, in 1863, pioneer photographer Gaspard-Felix Tournachon, better known by his pseudonym, Nadar, convinced that the future belonged to those who could command the sky, had built an enormous, red, 6000 cubic meter balloon which he appropriately named Le Geant, The Giant. 

Le Geant served to inspire two novels by his friend, Jules Verne: From the Earth to the Moon in 1867, and Five Weeks in a Balloon in 1869.  Shortly thereafter was established The Society for the Encouragement of Aerial Locomotion by Means of Heavier than Air Machines, with Nadar as president and Verne as secretary.

As the play opens (and almost immediately thereafter closes), Nadar is becalmed in a pocket of still air near the Eiffel Tower.  His wife, Ernestine, is calling up to him:

Ernestine (waving a handkerchief at him):  Nadar!  Nadar!

Nadar (who finally hears her and leans over the edge of Le Geant’s basket in order to shout back down to her):  Yes, dear, what is it?

Ernestine:  Come down, Nadar.  It’s time for tea.

Nadar:  Not now dear.  I’m busy floating.

Ernestine:  Nadar, it’s just a basket held up by a huge ball of hot air.

Nadar:  I’ll be back later, Ernestine.  There’s a new stirring of breeze.

Ernestine: And so you’ll forego your tea for that big skybound gland, that airborne breast of yours?

Nadar:  I’ll be back soon, dear.  Well have tea then.

Ernestine (exasperated): When?

Nadar:  When I’m next becalmed.

Ernestine:  And when will that be?

Nadar (floating off down the Seine):  Who’s to say?