"As a woman and feminist, I'm constantly learning about feminism... and it was so surprising to find out, in my naive Sarah Marie brain, that this is not a new idea, women's equality," says actor Sarah Marie Curry. "It's not just the past fifty to one hundred years. And to find out that this woman had made a declaration of women's rights back during the French Revolution... to me is humbling and powerful and also sad."
She's talking about Olympe de Gouges, the French playwright, political activist and feminist played by Curry in Lauren Gunderson's comedy The Revolutionists. It's a four-character play, centered around real-life women (well, three actual historic figures and one amalgam based on real figures) during the French Revolution.
De Gouges isn't as well remembered as Marie Antoinette, who is played by Shannon Grounds in The Revolutionists. "We have a lot of information about Marie Antoinette, but most of what has really survived in people's minds is largely inaccurate and totally false," says Grounds."And the way that Gunderson has written this character is a real challenge because she is partially a real person and she is partially representing those myths."
Exploring real (and often largely forgotten) historical figures in a contemporary and funny setting is a speciality of playwright Gunderson, and one of the things that drew Shrewd Productions to The Revolutionists. "That's kind of the genius of Gunderson," says Grounds (who is also Shrewd's artistic director). "She takes very important messages and these forgotten figures from history and then she makes it incredibly entertaining and funny."
It's the humor in Gunderson's historical plays that appealed to director Rudy Ramirez. "What's so smart is that she makes them comedies," he says. "She makes them really funny... and very modern, so that even if you're not necessarily someone who knows a lot about the French Revolution... you can connect to the comedy of the piece so well. And doing so, she's able to give this really powerful punch of a message."