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The cast of "The Revolutionists" presented by The Adobe Theater. Photo by Phillip Shortell. Photo courtesy of Georgia Athearn.

Adobe Theater retells French Revolution with feminist flair

A recurring question asked by the Adobe Theater’s production of “The Revolutionists” is, “Who are we without a story?”

The play-within-a-play, now playing through Sunday, May 7, remixes and adapts stories about four different women during the French Revolution. Stacy Hasselbacher, who plays Marie Antoinette, said that this encourages audiences to look at people and issues from a new perspective.

“The play explores different ways to address issues: Are you going to take extreme action, or are you going to work behind the scenes? Or are you going to create some kind of protest art about it? There are different ways to try to enact change, and I think this play really gets into that,” Hasselbacher said.

Stories are the key to this piece for Georgia Athearn, vice president of the Adobe Theater’s board of directors and production director.

“The major themes are sisterhood, camaraderie, revolution, feminism and pushing the narrative forward,” Athearn said. “You've got to push the narrative forward so that we can talk about the things that are still present today that have been present in women's issues for hundreds of years.”

The play makes thought-provoking connections between the past and the present, according to Nicolette “Nicee” Wagner, who plays Haitian freedom fighter Marianne Angelle. While three of the four women are loosely based on historical figures, the character of Angelle is a composite character, Wagner said.

“It shows us the struggles that women were going through at that time in 1793, and it kind of begs the question, have those issues really been solved, or are they issues that we’re still dealing with now?” Wagner said.

The play follows French playwright Olympe de Gouges, played by Jennifer Benoit, as she writes about these women against the backdrop of the Reign of Terror. De Gouges would not have actually known two of the three women and thus created them for this fictionalized play that’s written in front of the audience, according to Gunderson’s dramaturgy notes.

“Olypme is a political activist,” Benoit said. “We might in more modern turns call her a social justice warrior. But it's all on paper. She's a writer. She writes plays, novels, pamphlets, posters. Anything that gets into other people's hands. She has big ideas but not as much courage as maybe some of the other women in the play.”

In contrast, the character of Charlotte Corday, played by Lauren Jehle, prefers direct action.

“She definitely is afraid, but that isn't something that's going to stop her from doing the things that she thinks are right,” Jehel said. “And she's not afraid to fight for what she believes in, and to fight for the people that she loves and the people that she believes in, and the world that she believes everybody deserves to live in.”

Throughout the play, the dialogue addresses how stories construct the way that people get remembered in history. At one point, Wagner’s character of Angelle argues that without this play (the one within the play), nobody would remember that she existed.

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Even though Marie Antoinette is the most well-known historical figure in the play, Gunderson uses creative license in her depiction of the former queen, Hasselbacher said.

“What I find the most interesting about this is that it's not just supposed to be a straight up portrayal,” Hasselbacher said. “It's an interpretation of who Marie Antoinette could have been if we knew her as a human person today. Or then.”

Athearn believes that this show will appeal to younger audiences due to its meta nature and other unconventional elements.

“(Younger audiences) would enjoy the set. They'll enjoy the music. They'll enjoy the costumes. The costumes are a little steampunk,” Athearn said. “This show breaks the fourth wall constantly; the actors and the audience are interacting with each other. This set, the lights, the costumes, all come alive within each other.”

“The Revolutionists” performances are Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. Tickets are $24 general admission and $15 for students. There is a pay what you can performance on Thursday, May 4. The show runs for approximately two hours including intermission.

Gabriel Garcia is a freelance reporter for the Daily Lobo. He can be reached at or on Twitter @GLGwrites

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