Dallas — History as an area of academic study is overwhelmingly centered on the stories and exploits of men. The theatre is not much different. Plays and musicals such as Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton, Robert Schenken’s All the Way, Claude-Michel Schönberg and Alain Boublil’s Les Miserables, and 1776 by Peter Stone and Sherman Edwards may include women in the show as secondary (or even tertiary characters), but it is the men who run the show. IMPRINT Theatreworks is doing their part to correct this ignorance with their production of Lauren Gunderson’s The Revolutionists, running July 20 through Aug. 4.
Directed by Ashley H. White and Joe Messina, the cast features Dani Holway as Charlotte Corday, Marianne Galloway as Olympe de Gouge, Jennifer Kuenzer as Marie Antoinette, and Sky Williams as Marianne Angelle. It is the area premiere of this title by Gunderson, who has become one of the most produced living playwrights across the country. And it happens in the theater founded by one of the revolutionary women of American theater, the Marjo Jones Theatre.
We had a chance to sit down with the cast before one of their final rehearsals.
TheaterJones: Why do you feel this show is important for audiences to see right now?
Dani Holway: I think most importantly this show is giving women visibility. The show centers around a sisterhood and proves that women are and have always been a force to be reckoned with.
Marianne Galloway: It's important to see this show to connect with where we've been so we can learn from the past and work towards change for the better, but it's also vital to gather together in a communal setting in this world where we're increasingly alone: alienated from each other by screens and schedules and the sense that time is moving way too fast. To sit down, connect with each other, breath the same air, and share the same story. That's part of the gift of live theater.
Jennifer Kuenzer: What I feel is important to note about the stories being told is that three of these women actually existed, but have primarily been written about by men, and only one of those women written about extensively, the other two, hardly at all. The fourth woman is a composite of women that existed, but because of the color of their skin, their stories were and are still largely unwritten.
Sky Williams: And it’s good inspiration for the impending revolution.
The show is being presented in the shadow of #metoo and #timesup. How does this production fit into the landscape?
JK: While the themes of sexual violence and women’s rights are certainly part of this play, they are presented as symptoms, not the disease.
MG: The Revolutionists is about grace, power, and artistic defiance in the face of extreme political crisis. I keep getting asked how the various female-focused projects I'm doing are related to #metoo and #timesup. Those movements are specific to sexual assault/harassment. That’s the framework Women are being seen in right now, and that’s concerning. Not everything a woman fights has to do with sexual assault, which seems like an obvious statement. We are that fight, and it’s an important one. We are simultaneously so much more. The Revolutionists celebrates some of that “more”.
The cast and production team is almost exclusively made up of women. How does that feel in a theatre landscape in which women are frequently marginalized in terms of opportunity and representation?
SW: It feels empowering and safe.
JK: It feels like work. Good work.
DH: This has been such an inspirational and empowering journey. Getting to bounce ideas off of and create with such an incredible group of women is unmatched. It should happen more often.
MG: It feels f*cking awesome.
Playwright Lauren Gunderson notes that this show is about activism and how we got about changing the world. For you, how does this play do that?
MG: This play has connected me to a woman who fought for our rights and died for her efforts over 200 years ago. It gives me strength as I experience the barrage of progressively devastating news that floods my newsfeed. Maybe that’s how it contributes to our own, present-day revolution: by giving hope to the broken-hearted through the knowledge that this is a long, long haul, but we are not and never have been alone.
DH: We are always writing our own stories and we have the ability to make the changes we often so wish to see. This play also highlights the importance of friendship and how vital it is to be there and support one another, no matter how different our backgrounds may be.
JK: I feel like this play covers a lot of ground. I want to hear about what people walk away with; meet me at a post-show gathering, let’s chat there.
A few fun, rapid-fire questions: If you could trade roles with someone else in the cast, who would it be and why?
DH: Jennifer Kuenzer.
MG: I'm the only one in the cast who gets to wear pants, so I think I'll keep my sweet gig as a badass activist playwright.
SW: I think we can all agree that Marie Antoinette has some of the most fun lines.
JK: I totally wish I had an answer for this. I’d Russian Roulette the roles. That would be a trip. But for real though, I don’t want to share my wig.
If you could have dinner with any three not-so-well-behaved women, who is on your guest list?
JK: Roxane Gay, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Paula Vogel.
SW: Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, and Eve—I really just want to yell at her.
DH: The top of my list is, obviously, Lady Gaga. I wouldn’t mind sitting down with Eowyn from Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings (“I am no man!”), or Joan of Arc either.
MG: Hillary Clinton, Hedy Lamarr, and Julie Taymor. The list of alternatives should one of these ladies eat a bad taco before our dinner and have to cancel is long and awesome.
Any final thoughts?
SW: Everyone should see this show; there’s a message in it for everyone.
DH: This show is important, and powerful, and heart-wrenching, and terribly, horribly, perfectly funny. Come see it.
JK: Lauren Gunderson wrote a shockingly accurate play. If you encounter a moment, a line, a detail that seems too ridiculous or too modern or too convenient to be believed… It’s actually true. Researching this play has been its own wild, joyful, devastating entertainment.