‘The Revolutionists’ presented by theatre and dance department

Nicole Yeager, News Editor

The University’s theatre and dance program allows students to design, direct and collaborate with professors to develop and showcase their artistic skills. Each year, the program produces five mainstage performances for the community to attend. Students can become involved in dance performances by choreographing or performing in showcases that feature styles from ballet and jazz to contemporary. The theatre department offers a range of opportunities for students to gain new perspectives and experiences, such as working behind the scenes, with costume and makeup, with set and lighting design or performing on the stage.

This semester, the program presented a performance of Lauren Gunderson’s play, “The Revolutionists.” There were three performances last week from Friday, Feb. 21 to Monday, Feb. 24 at 7:30 p.m., as well as a matinee on Sunday at 2 p.m.

On their Monday night showing, the Tustin Studio Theatre was filled with students, professors and other faculty members. Many students were attending as part of their Sociology or Women and Gender Studies classes considering the relevant plot of the play, while others were there to support their friends and peers. All audience members laughed along with the plot and left thinking about the essential themes of feminism and revolutionary behavior.

“I thought the performances were outstanding and I think the play, even though it was set in the French Revolution, speaks volumes to our current time,” said Writing & Teaching Consultant Sabrina Kirby, who attended the Monday night performance.

In “The Revolutionists,” Lauren Gunderson, America’s most-produced living playwright, “pens three historical women and one that history left behind to forcefully take the stage and recarve themselves into the dismembered memories of the Reign of Terror. From here, they speak the truths about art and activism, misogyny and myopia, finally somewhat agreeing on the rights that all women should have – not just the privileged ones – but didn’t get the opportunity to or were stopped short of by their oppression, erasure and/or untimely deaths.”

The plot featured three notable female figures in history: Olympe de Gouges, a playwright and political activist of the time; Marianne Angelle, an African American spy who actively fought for equality; Marie-Antoinette, the widely known and potentially misunderstood last queen of France; and Charlotte Corday, the young figure who assassinated journalist Jean-Paul Marat.

In the performance at the University, Olympe de Gouges was played by Kate Donithen ’20 and understudied by Bethany Fitch ’23; Marianne Angelle by Jeniah Martin ’22 and Sophia Spears ’23; Marie-Antoinette by Catherine Mackay ’21 and Haley Dickinson ’23; and Charlotte Corday by Caroline Tattersfield ’22 and Rachel Milio ’22.

Along with the comedic aspect of the play, executed through sarcastic and witty dialogue, there was an added meta element that broke the third wall between the actresses and the audience. At various times throughout the play, the actresses would look and speak directly to the audience. These lines were often amusing remarks about the backgrounds of the characters or blunt and ironic comments about the narrative of the play itself. These remarks created an interruption or break in the performance and allowed members of the audience some comedic relief while also thinking about the content.

One of these meta moments occurred in the first half when Tattersfield as Charlotte Corday said, “We’re all in a play someone else is writing, and I’m certain this is my cue.” Another moment that portrays this type of meta-theatre was a scene in which multiple characters said, “All the world’s an audience,” “All the world’s a mob” and “Sometimes you can’t tell the difference,” consecutively.

“The Revolutionists” aimed to combine the themes of feminism, racism and justice into a contemporary play while using humor to draw audiences in, leaving them reflecting on the themes long after the curtain’s closing.

“I thought it was significant to use wit and humor to talk about such important topics in the play; even though I laughed through the whole performance, I still left thinking about how feminism is a force that should not be underestimated,” Gianna Rubel ’22 said.

“I loved ‘The Revolutionists.’ I did not know what to expect going in, but I left feeling so empowered. I thought it was a beautiful mix of comedy and history, which helped keep me engaged and laughing the whole time. The four female actresses were powerful and really did a great job portraying how strong and resilient these women were in history,” Megan Waldron ’22 said.

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