Real women who lived boldly during the French Revolution’s Reign of Terror come together in “The Revolutionists,” UNO Theatre upcoming mainstage production directed by Maire Creegan.
The play by Lauren Gunderson premiered at Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park two years ago. There have been several showings since, gaining critical acclaim for its witty humor, ability to relate to the modern day and hard-hitting girl power.
Former Queen Marie Antoinette (Bethany Bresnahan), assassin Charlotte Corday (Aidan Hay), playwright Olympe de Gouges (Sam Mashek) and Caribbean spy Marianne Angelle (Yone Edeg-bele) join forces in “The Revolutionists.” The women hang out, plot murder and try to rid Paris of extremist insanity. The play touches on violence and legacy, terrorism and feminism, and transforming the world.
Creegan has worked with the cast and crew of “The Revolutionists” for a little over four weeks. The actors have gone from table readings to physical acting work and exercises as they’ve gotten to know their characters better.
“They’ve moved from being a group of individual talented and wonderful artists to being a talented and wonderful ensemble,” said Creegan. “They all rely on each other, enjoy each other and support each other. It has been my privilege to watch them create something together and become such successful collaborators.”
The set for “The Revolutionists” contains few moving pieces with a unique stenciling on the floor. Creegan describes the lighting as “atmospheric,” sometimes with the ambiance of a nightclub. The costumes are grounded in the period, yet not overly formal. Unique to this production of “The Revolutionists” is the use of contemporary music like Lady Gaga, Pink, Beyoncé and several others.
“Music is very important to our show and I think it’s a wonderful way to find the emotional life of a character,” she said.
Creegan loves the centuries of plays that have come before – mostly written by men – but she appreciates the opportunity to see more work from women playwrights, showing us a different point of view with a different voice.
While the play is set in 1793, its modern dialogue is very in tune with today’s generation. “The Revolutionists” deals with questions of freedom, women’s rights, slavery and underrepresented voices. One thing that resonates through the script into real life is that if women don’t speak up and unite, they will be “relegated to property”.
“Women, other minority groups and oppressed peoples must keep resisting the idea that it is man, and man alone, who has the right to rule and decide the fates of all of us,” said Creegan.
Many of the themes that exist in the play are very much alive to-day. Perhaps one of the greatest reflections is in the use of propaganda during that time and its use now. Jean Paul Marat, a key figure in “The Revolutionists,” was the propaganda writer for the Jacobin party. Creegan described him as “vicious and using anything he could to destroy any opposition”—including outrageous lies about anyone his party disagreed with.
“If college students want to see their own lives, and views and hopes as they struggle and fight through the problems of this world, this is the show for them,” said Creegan. “Perhaps they can see their own story in another time of political danger and find out who the real heroes of society are.”
“The Revolutionists” runs from Feb. 23 to 24 and Feb. 28 to March 3. All performances start at 7:30 p.m. in the UNO Theatre located in the Weber Fine Arts building. Those who attend should be ad-vised of very strong, adult language. For tickets, visit unomaha.edu/unotheatre, visit the box office or call 402-554-PLAY. Regular tickets are $16 and free for UNO students who present a valid ID.