A Conversion with Shelli Place of The Revolutionists

A Conversion with Shelli Place of The Revolutionists

Research is oftentimes a forgotten, yet fundamental, aspect of theater. Shelli Place, the director of The Revolutionists and co-founder of PRIME Productions, ensured immersion and research lay at the forefront of this play. Facts and accuracy are especially vital to The Revolutionists because it revolves around real historical figures during the time of the French Revolution. Place emphasized her hopes for audiences to “have a great amount of respect for these women [who] came before us. These women, some of them are famous and some of them are not known. I want them to learn something from the history of it.”  The four central characters are based on real women: playwright Olympe de Gouge, Queen Marie Antoinette, assassin Charlotte Corday, and Marianne Angelle–a composite of Haitian revolutionaries.

Place has made it a priority to connect with the rich history featured in the play. She even traveled to France in an effort to learn more. On her trip, one historical landmark she visited was the Conciergerie: a former courthouse and prison in Paris, France where major trials and large-scale executions occurred. During the Reign of Terror, “17,000 people were executed,” Shelli Place said to put the pure scope of the tragedies into perspective. This courthouse is central to the plot of The Revolutionists and history itself. Place’s visit to France and research about the French Revolution, assures the audience that history will not get lost in the theatrics of the play.

xandru, CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons

The play’s topic is a grim one, yet it is filled with humor and laughter. It is quite a feat to have these two deceptively opposing tones coexist seamlessly. Place shares, “comedy, to me, is about contrast.” Finding laughter in the darkness or difficult times is necessary for survival, and the four leads’ use of humor during this time attests to human strength in hardship. Shelli sought out actors who had the comedic chops, but made it clear that “when it comes to the vulnerability, they had to have that too.” The Revolutionists walks a fine line between seriousness and comedy–and the actors are key to this balance.

Shelli Place is the co-founder of PRIME Productions, which is a theater production company seeking to promote mature women in the theater industry. Place emphasized: “We want to support the women in town who are brilliant. We want to be there to keep the theaters available to them. We don’t want them to be aged out.” One way Place and PRIME Productions do this is through age-specific casting. So, when Place “had found out that Olympe de Gouge was not the age that she was in the play–she was actually almost a decade older,” she and Alison Edwards, who is her partner in PRIME Productions, called up Lauren Gunderson, who is the playwright of The Revolutionists. The phone call was productive in their choice to age up Olympe de Gouge’s character to match the age she would actually be during the French Revolution. Place’s dedication to the PRIME Production mission brings more historical accuracy to the play and supports mature women in theater. 

The Revolutionists makes history engaging and accessible to audiences by merging the past and present: historical figures using modern speech patterns, postmodern jukebox–working modern music into vintage genres such as string quartets–, and modernized costume design. Audiences will be faced with history and find it feeling familiar. Twists and turns still permeate the play with engaging characters who are tough, embrace their femininity, and stick to their convictions no matter the cost. Shelli said, “This is my goal every time I do a show: I want to surprise people.” 

The Revolutionists is playing on the Park Square Proscenium Stage from March 29th to April 16th. To buy tickets, please call the box office at 651-291-7005 or visit https://parksquaretheatre.easy-ware-ticketing.com/events.

 

Correction 2/27/2023: The executions did NOT take place at the Conciergerie, but rather, the prisoners were taken by cart to the Place de la Révolution, now The Place de la Concorde, one of the most famous public squares in Paris. 

Interview and article by Marketing Intern, Victoria Martynko

 

Tickets

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Please call 651.291.7005.

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