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The REvolutionists

Scenic, Props, and Puppets

The Revolutionists by Lauren Gunderson

The Costume Shop Theater, produced by the A.C.T. Fellows 2018-2019

Directed by Kayla M. Kaufman                 Assistant Directors Hannah Clague and Annie Sears Costume and Wig Design by Kinsey Thomas

Scenic Design by NJ Bice   Sound by Angela Yeung                          

Lighting Design by Hannah Rosenzweig   Show Photography by Jay Yamada

Annika Bergman as Olympe De Gouges Yasmine Love as Marianne Angelle

Li-Leng Au as Marie Antoinette Adrienne Dolan as Charlotte Corday

The Revolutionists is a comedy about badass women in the French Revolution. Olympe De Gouges is trying to write a play that will be the voice of their revolution, but struggles to write something meaningful without being preachy. Her abolitionist spy friend Marianne arrives asking for help writing pamphlets for the plight of Caribbean slaves, Charlotte Corday needs a last line to help her go down in history after she kills the political pundit Marat, and Marie Antoinette needs better press. A feminist playwright has never been more in demand, or more in danger.

Each year the American Conservatory Fellows come together to produce a play in A.C.T.’s Costume Shop Theater, and for the fellows of 2018-19, this was the voice of our revolution. Though I was a costume fellow I returned to my other area of focus in scenic, taking on props and puppets as well. With the limitations of our time in the space and our budget I designed the set from mostly stock platforms.

Artistic vision and practicality came together in this simple, effective design. I created one large platform to act as Olympe’s office, the place we return to most throughout the show, and left the rest of the space flexible for the other locations. There are raised platforms to act as a soap box or a scaffold, as needed, and liminal space downstage. The warmth and safety of the office was constructed with just two pieces of furniture, a small rug, a functioning chandelier, and a wall with gold curtains and a picture frame. The rest was done with hand props, which in an intimate space like this made a big impact. My personal favorites were the papers that I calligraphed and the bejeweled knife of Charlotte Corday.  

After the majority of the show was taken care of by the base of platforms and the office, our design discussions and collaborations centered around the moments of death within the show. For the guillotine moments I placed black flats behind the tallest platforms, providing a surface for Hannah Rosenzweig to create the abstracted blade from only a shuttered Altman. After each person died, Kinsey Thomas had them reappear on stage in all white undergarments to operate puppets and speak from the dead, each wearing a red ribbon somewhere.

My favorite moment, however, is Marat’s murder. Charlotte wheels on a bathtub resembling that in Jacques-Louis David’s The Death of Marat, makes a speech, and plunges the glittering knife into the empty tub. The tub glows with red light, casting up onto her face, and she pulls the knife back out dripping with a tangled mass of red ribbons. Orchestrating this moment brought scenic, lighting, and sound all together in a moment of intense collaborative effort and problem solving.