CHARACTER INTERVIEWS with Evangeline and Morgan for The Angel Connection
By Judith Anne Barton
Author’s note: This interview takes place in the interim before Evangeline begins her passionate affair with Daniel Duvall.
WHERE DO YOU DREAM OF TRAVELING TO AND WHY?
Oh the world is so grand and from my tiny perch in Milltown I dream of experiencing so much more of it. Firstly I dream of returning to Philadelphia, to stroll down Locust Street past the home where I grew up, to visit with my girlhood friends, to dine in fine restaurants, to resume painting classes at The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, to shop at John Wanamaker’s department store… from there I would sail to France… to Paris! I would spend my days touring the museums, gazing at the paintings of the Great Masters, analyzing their brushstrokes, their style, their use of form and color. In the evenings I would attend soirées in the salons of brilliant artists and intellectuals of the day… sip absinthe in a sidewalk café… dine at Maxim’s in a gossamer gown with an audacious décolleté! Lastly I would travel from Paris to Giverny, to the colony of the French Impressionist artists. There I would set up my easel on the banks of the river Epte. Perhaps the form of a child at play would be my subject, perhaps a family picnic, perhaps a languorous nude model stretched out on the grass with wildflowers woven into her hair. How quickly I move my brush to keep up with the changing light!
In the evening I would drink wine at the Hotel Baudy with other artists discussing the latest trends in art and books and music. Perhaps I might smoke a cigar. Yes, I would like to participate in that ritual mostly reserved for the male of the species. Am I wicked?
TELL US ABOUT YOUR FAMILY
It seems impossible that Papa is gone… more than a year now… he was a physician at Pennsylvania Hospital in Philadelphia, very much respected by his colleagues and his patients. I grew up an only child after my dear Maman died giving birth to my baby brother. He died too. Was stillborn. Shortly after that Papa brought Lizzie over from Ireland to be my governess and companion. Truly Lizzie has been like a mother to me. After Maman and the baby died, Papa became distant. He no longer allowed me to climb onto his lap and tweak his mustache. Some said that I reminded him too much of Maman and that it pained him to look at me. But Lizzie loved me fiercely! I was so grateful when my husband agreed to let Lizzie accompany us when we moved to Milltown from Philadelphia. I would have been so lost without my dear Lizzie. and she is such a help with Willie who adores her. Yes! Willie, my son. I saved the best till last! My precious, handsome, smart blue-eyed three-year-old boy. He is my joy and my treasure. William says he is a Mama’s Boy and that I spoil him, but in my heart I know he will grow up to be a fine, fine gentleman. Oh -- William is my husband. He is the minister at the Milltown Christian Church. That’s what brought us here to Milltown. William is charged with rebuilding the faltering congregation and ridding the village of sinners.
WHAT WAS THE SCARIEST MOMENT OF YOUR LIFE?
When I was six, I heard my mother’s screams of anguish and my father’s muffled sobs as she lay dying with her dead baby on the bed beside her. Later I saw the servants carry blood-soaked sheets from my Maman’s bed down the stairs. They passed right by me as I huddled on the burgundy Persian carpet peering through the balustrade. I fell asleep there on the floor. Fear drew me into a thick darkness -- an oblivion. They were all too grief-stricken to notice.
Recently though there has occurred an event that frightened me to my core. It was a Wednesday evening. I was so passionately in love with sketching the human form that I convinced Lizzie to pose for me in her little bedroom off the kitchen. She looked so lovely in the glow of the lamp with her coal black hair tumbling over her barely exposed breasts. Suddenly we heard a knock on the front door. It was the Ladies Bible Study group! I’d been so distracted by my work that I had completely forgotten it was Wednesday night. Lizzie threw on her clothes and rushed to put on the kettle and rummage in the pantry for the remains of a lemon cake. With heart hammering, I smoothed my hair, unrolled my shirtwaist sleeves and hurried to answer the door. As I passed through the parlor, I unthinkingly laid my portfolio of nude sketches on the secretary. Later when William had joined us for coffee and lemon cake, I suddenly spied the portfolio under the coffee pot. Stricken I moved to hide them. In so doing, I knocked over the silver coffee pitcher, which spilled on Sarah Webster. In the confusion the sketches fell to the floor, splattered with coffee, scattering on the carpet like rectangular speckled white leaves, exposing the charcoal nude drawings for all to see. I fell to my knees as if to cover them with my body, scrambling in futility to protect them from horrified gasps, accusatory glares. It was at William’s feet that I felt my deepest fear and shame. After the ladies left, I felt the full fury of his wrath. My husband forbade me from continuing my art lessons with Mr. Duvall. This struck such fear in my being that I lost my ability to draw breath. William had essentially killed me.
WHAT MAKES YOU HAPPY?
Oh, painting, drawing, colors, brushes, an empty canvas, a completed canvas, palettes splotched with umbers and vermillions and azureans, palette knives, the smell of turpentine, linseed oil, catching the changing light, dawn, sunset, the fragrance of lilacs and sun-ripened tomatoes on the vine, the dance of trees awakened by a breeze, walking along the Paunnacussing Creek, with Willie’s moist little hand in mine, the cascading water wheel at Aquatong Farm, and my art lessons with Mr. Duvall always made me happy, not just for that hour or day but for a whole week until the next lesson!
But my son, my angel Willie, is my special joy. When I peek into his room each morning, he holds out his arms to me, and a beatific smile wreath his perfect cherub face. “Mama!” he cries, and my heart swells with joy.
WHAT ARE YOU PASSIONATE ABOUT THESE DAYS?
I’m producing a documentary about local Pennsylvania Impressionist painters, in particular, two painters who were also lovers: Daniel Duvall and a woman known as “Angel.” It’s been thrilling and a little spooky to uncover their story from a century ago. The craziest coincidence is that this painter Angel actually lived in the house where I’m now living. When I first moved in I found charcoal drawings buried under the floorboards. Then creepy things started to happen in the house -- I thought it was haunted. In a way it is. I’m galvanized by this project, as are my partners Victor Cenzo and my son Chad. The synchronicity of events and places spanning a hundred years has knocked us back on our heels, but we know-I know-that this documentary is the assignment of my life. And speaking of passion --I’m in over my head in love with Victor.
WHAT WOULD WE FIND UNDER YOUR BED?
Tumbleweeds of dust balls. And -- I’m serious, three or four empty glasses with folded papers under them. A friend once told me I should write down what I wanted to happen as if it already had happened, express gratitude to the universe, then fold the letter and put it under my bed with a glass of water on top of it. So there are all these papers and grungy empty glasses from which the water evaporated months ago, with my faded wishes gathering dust until the next time I write a letter to the universe!
There would also be an unmatched sock or two.
IF YOU COULD APOLOGOZE TO SOMEONE IN YOUR PAST WHO WOULD IT BE?
It would be my son Chad. And in fact I’m working on apologizing to him right now, every day. He had a rough childhood. His father was abusive to me. I had to sneak away one night with Chad and a few stuffed trash bags and find refuge in a shelter. After that as my television career expanded, there were a lot of men in and out of our lives. Chad wanted a family and I kept screwing it up, picking the wrong guys. I thought my marriage to Pete Antraeus would make everything perfect. Chad adored Pete. But even Pete turned out to be the “wrong guy” and Chad was left to help me pick up the pieces of betrayal. So he has a lot of resentment and rightly so. I love and cherish my son and seek his forgiveness for all I did that hurt him. The documentary is helping us bridge the gap toward rapprochement. Though there is resentment of my relationship with Victor. Will I ever get it right?
WHAT DO YOU DO TO UNWIND AND RELAX?
Vinyasa flow yoga is my go to for physical, spiritual and emotional renewal. I never felt graceful until I began to practice yoga. I love the ancient rituals of study, chanting, meditation and asana. Deep practice shows me that there is more to us than five senses and this earthly life.
The Angel Connection tells the mystical tale of two women born a century apart, but whose destinies are mysteriously linked by long held secrets. In the vein of "The French Lieutenant’s Woman" and "Outlander," this compelling novel straddles historical and contemporary fiction. "The Angel Connection" is a timeless love story told by two female protagonists who transcend the boundaries of time and space and are hurtled toward their inevitable collision.
In 1996, newly divorced TV journalist Morgan Reed finds herself at a personal and professional low, and escapes to pastoral Bucks County. There she discovers her new home is birthplace to the Pennsylvania Impressionist movement. Morgan impulsively buys an old haunted church rectory and is drawn into creating a documentary about the local painters of that era. She also gets pulled into an unsettling love affair with her fellow filmmaker, which raises the ire of her adult son. In 1895, in the same Bucks County Church Rectory, Evangeline Laury, the beautiful and restless wife of a zealot preacher is torn between her role as obedient wife and her birth as a talented painter in the hands of a charismatic local Impressionist who soon becomes her lover and soul mate. Evangeline struggles with her duties, but the desire for her lover and her art come at a cost, and an unspeakable tragedy makes her a virtual prisoner of the rectory. Bound together as they try to martial universal forces beyond their control, Morgan in 1996 and Evangeline in 1895 both struggle to fulfill their needs for creative expression, true love and familial duty. As Morgan uncovers the drama that unfolded in the old house 100 years earlier, the two women’s pasts meld into the present, igniting karmic embers and bringing a shuddering retribution. Where does one story end and the other begin?
Judith Anne Barton is an author, actress, playwright and award-winning television journalist. The Angel Connection is her first novel. After a successful career in broadcast journalism in Philadelphia that spanned over a decade, Barton moved to Bucks County, PA where she worked with her mentor, the late JP Miller, author of the classic The Days of Wine and Roses. Her first play Opening Night received its world premiere at Philadelphia’s Lantern Theatre Company, and was named a finalist in the Sundance Film Lab competition. She is the co-author of The Best Letter Book Ever and is also a published poet. Barton now resides in Los Angeles where she also pursues an acting career in film and television. Her sons, William Wheeler (The Reluctant Fundamentalist) and Thomas Wheeler (Puss in Boots, Puss in Boots II) are successful screenwriters.
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