Jessica Cavanaugh as Olympe De Gouge and Lemon Marin as Marianne Angelle conspire together during dress rehearsals.
The cast and director of the newest Keizer Homegrown Theatre production, The Revolutionists, agree the play only became more relevant during its year-long delay from casting to stage.
“My character, Charlotte Corday, is part of a liberal political party that wants progress, but she dislikes the violence of the leader of another party that wants the same things,” said Hannah Patterson, one of the production’s four leads.
The Revolutionists revolves around Corday and three other women – playwright Olympe De Gouge, Marie Antoinette and Marianne Angelle – in the center of the French Revolution and trying to find a way forward. The play is mostly a comedy and some of the language might be considered too harsh for children.
Performances are slated June 3-5, 10-12 and 17-19. Showtime is 7 p.m. each evening outside on the patio behind the Keizer Cultural Center. The audience will be socially-distanced and masks are required. Seating is limited and tickets are $15 and available at keizerhomegrowntheatre.org. Chairs will be available, but the troupe recommends bringing your own for maximum comfort.
Performers will be unmasked (all are fully vaccinated) and have individual microphones to overcome the occasional passing motorhead.
Director Linda Baker said certain lines from the play will hit an entirely different way in light of all society has experienced in the last 15 months.
“The writer, Lauren Gunderson, is phenomenal and her language is Shakespearean and modern at the same time. No one needs to worry about understanding what is being said,” Baker said. “It’s funny and dark and there are nights when this cast brought me to tears during rehearsal. The whole production is so full of joy.”
Lemon Marin plays Angelle, the spirit of revolution itself and the only fictitious character in the quartet.
“One of the things that attracted me to her role was that she is the only character without an end date,” Marin said. “And I think she knows that her spirit will live on while these other women she is mothering may not. I think there are even places where she is fighting against it.”
For Jessica Cavanaugh, who plays De Gouge, having a character based in history was an avenue to discovery. She and Patterson both did a deep dive into the history of the women they are portraying and found out how much the playwright packed into brief scenes.
“There’s a specific line from Charlotte when she says, ‘The nuns were right.’ it’s actually a reference to the time she spent in a convent,” said Patterson.
“Then Olympe responds that nuns were mad because ‘We decide who the heroes are,’” Cavanaugh said. “That’s a reference to Olympe’s anger at the church for the way it treated children born out of wedlock – she was born out of wedlock. There are so many lines that are a reference to the lives these women lived and I felt like we discovered new ones all the time.”
Kristin Andre, who plays Marie Antoinette, said the message and the history conveyed in the play is only more desperately needed after a year of tumult and upheaval.
“At the end, it’s about people coming together. I needed this play on a personal level. There are so many themes at work about love and loss and friendship. It’s also just a play about some bad-ass women and that’s really, really great,” Andre said.