What would your brain be doing if it knew it had little time left? What thoughts would be running through it? What fantasy world would it create? Lauren Gunderson’s play, The Revolutionists, shows what Olympe De Gouges, a french feminist playwright during the French Revolution, might have been creating in her mind as she faced Madame Guillotine. During the "Reign Of Terror," tens of thousands of men and women were confronted with a similar fate as hers. Their minds racing through their last moments before being quieted forever. This includes two other women in our play, Charlotte Corday, the assassin of radical French journalist Jean Paul Marat, and Marie Antoinette, the historically misunderstood queen of France. After their murders, Marat was made a martyr and Marie Antoinette was made the butt of many jokes (that cake thing was a lie brought up by those who hated her). And the reality is that it was quite easy to erase and malign these women from history.
The French National motto, that started during The Revolution was "Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité." Just as the United States Thomas Jefferson was stating in the Declaration of Independence, “ That all Men are created Equal." Both of these nations at the birth of their Democracies had already forgotten their women in their pursuit for liberty and freedom. And as I read the play, I was struck how history almost erased these women had it not been for a modern female playwright, Lauren Gunderson, writing these women back into our present conversation. Furthermore, Lauren includes a fictitious Freewoman named Marianne Angell, fighting for the abolition of slavery in what is today known as the country of Haiti. It is this voice that really makes clear for the audience the voice of women of color where few stories were physically written down, was purposely erased from history.
This is why I am so excited as a Director to shed light on these forgotten voices. The production team working behind the scenes created a world where these women could finally find their light, and show how universal their story still is. The design elements from the set design showing the guillotine always letting its presence known, never far away from her thoughts. And the sound of the clock ticking away her mortal hours. These elements are all to bring you into the mind of Olympe as she faces her mortality and her fear of being forgotten.
So lean in and enjoy as we rediscover the almost forgotten women of the French Revolution.