April 10, 2015
Of Guillotines and Girl Power
The CUA Department of Drama presents “The Revolutionists,” a new play by Lauren Gunderson, exploring feminism, violence, and the French Revolution.
Amidst the violence and chaos of the French Revolution, there were strong women who continued to live boldly and love fiercely.
The Catholic University of America Department of Drama will bring some of those stories to life this month in a new play, “The Revolutionists,” a dark comedy written by acclaimed playwright Lauren Gunderson. The play tells the story of four women caught in the political chaos, including a playwright, an assassin, a free woman of color, and a former queen.
“The Revolutionists” will be performed in Hartke Theatre, 3801 Harewood Road, N.E., Washington, D.C., Thursday and Friday, April 23 and 24, at 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, April 25, at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.; and Sunday, April 26, at 2 p.m.
The production at Hartke Theatre will mark the first performance of “The Revolutionists” before its professional premiere in Cincinnati in 2016. Gunderson’s previous work, “I and You,” debuted at Olney Theatre in Maryland. It was awarded the 2014 Harold and Mimi Steinberg/American Theatre Critics Association New Play Award and named a finalist for the 2014 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize.
Because Gunderson lives in San Francisco, she has collaborated with director Eleanor Holdridge and the cast over Skype to make script changes and adjustments when necessary. On April 13, she will come to campus to meet with the actors and hold a playwriting workshop with M.F.A. Playwriting candidates.
“It’s a great chance for our students to get to work on a developing play by a nationally recognized playwright,” Holdridge said. “Because it’s a new play, there’s so much to figure out about what’s important in each moment and how we can help the play become what it needs to be.”
Holdridge says the play is unique because of its strong female characters, three of whom are based on real women — Marie Antoinette, the assassin Charlotte Corday, and the playwright Olympe De Gouge. The fourth women is Haitian rebel Marianne Angelle, who plays the wife of activist Vincent Ogé.
“It’s an incredibly feminist play and it’s all about girl power — French Revolution girl power,” Holdridge said. “I think it’s all about the resilience of women and how they are coming up against great tragedy, while having fun and celebrating life.”
Though the play deals with violence, terrorism, and deep conflicts, Holdridge says she hopes audiences will be amused and moved by the production.
“I hope they laugh and I hope they cry,” she said. “If the play does its job, it will make the audience think about all the unwritten and therefore unknowable stories of women through the ages. This is about women being written out of history and reclaiming that, saying we deserve a voice and we need to recreate what that history actually was.”
The drama department will hold several events in conjunction with the play, including a roundtable discussion, “Revolution, Religion, and Rethinking Society Across the Atlantic,” on April 25, at 12:30 p.m., in the upper lobby of Hartke Theatre. The panel will be moderated by Peter Shoemaker, vice provost and dean of undergraduate programs and will include Jean-Michel Heimonet, professor of French; Caroline Sherman, assistant professor of history; and Chelsea Stieber, assistant professor of French.
The department will also hold two events at Busboys and Poets in Brookland: a movie screening of the French film Toussaint on April 14 at 6 p.m., and a reading of the play “Danton’s Death” by Georg Büchner on April 21 at 8 p.m.
Tickets for “The Revolutionists” are available online and can be purchased at the door at $15 for general admission; $10 for seniors and CUA alumni, faculty, and staff; and $5 for students. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit drama.cua.edu, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 202-319-5358.