One voice sometimes seems to be missing from most history books: the women. USC's Department of Theatre and Dance’s upcoming production, “The Revolutionists,” tells the story of the French Revolution through the experiences of four women.
The saying “well-behaved women rarely make history” is exemplified through the characters in “The Revolutionists.” The four passionate women include Olympe de Gouge, a protofeminist playwright; Charlotte Corday, a brave assassin; Marianne de Angelle, a symbol of freedom and, well, Marie Antoinette herself.
Each of the women have different backgrounds and passions, but all are unified under the same goal: to fight the injustice of the Reign of Terror.
While the thought of French history might bring back memories of mundane history lessons, the play is far from a “yawn fest,” according to director Marybeth Gorman Craig. Even though the play is set in 1793, Craig described the contemporary dialogue as a conversation between Tina Fey and Amy Poehler.
“A conversation of big ideas mixed with a lot of humor mixed with really beautiful theatrical elements,” Craig said.
The playwright, Lauren Gunderson, created the fictional story based on real historical figures and facts. Craig said through this play, Gunderson shows how art can be used to facilitate change.
Not only is the play centered around four women, but everyone involved in the production is female, including the director, actors, lighting designer and stage manager.
Iuliia Khamidullina, a first-year MFA student who plays Charlotte, said women are better together and can create something wonderful.
“I mean I’m not against men, no I love men,” Khamidullina said, laughing. “But it’s something special when only women come together.”
While women empowerment is a main theme, simply calling “The Revolutionists” a feminist play would be leaving out part of the message. Jennifer Sanchez, a first-year MFA student portraying Marie Antoinette, said the play is universal and can speak to all people.
“It also talks about the division between the wealthy and the poor and misogyny and racism and that’s something we can all identify with,” Sanchez said.
Over 200 years later, the message of “The Revolutionists” is still applicable today. As an international student from Russia, Khamidullina relates to the bravery of her character in “The Revolutionists.” She said the play is a reminder that she has power and is not alone.
“This is a big example for me as a young girl, 25 years old, as an international in another country," Khamidullina said. "For me it’s very great motivation, it makes me stronger."
Today, the willingness of many women to speak out against injustice is at the forefront of national conversations. Khamidullina said the play is coming to USC at the right time. Her role gives her a voice which she hopes resonates with the audience.
“We say girls' power, no, it’s just power, it’s just equality,” Khamidullina said.
As opening night approaches on Feb. 6, Craig is looking forward to more conversations on the topics the play discusses. The characters in the play fought to have their stories told the right way in fear of being forgotten. She challenges people to be aware of how the stories around them are being told.
“We read history books and we read the newspaper and it’s easy to just sort of take it at face value or on the opposite end think of it all as fake news and not take it into account at all,” Craig said. “I think there’s a lot to think about there.”
"The Revolutionists" runs from Feb. 6-17 at the Center for Performance Experiment on Devine Street. Tickets can be purchased online or at the door.