Women of The Revolutionists: Tia Marie Tanzer as Marianne Angelle

In celebration of International Women’s History Month, Park Square Theatre, and PRIME Productions present the following installment in the Women Wednesday Interview Series! This week, we had a conversation with Tia Marie Tanzer, who plays the freedom fighter and abolitionist named Marianne Angelle in The Revolutionists

Tia’s journey to acting started in fourth grade when her school put on a performance of Willy Wonka and she was cast as Veruca Salt. She had the best time acting, yet she decided to help with set design and music when her school put on The Wizard of Oz the following year. Her teachers probed her with the incredulous question: why? Tia was steadfast in her choice to explore the many other facets of theater…until an actor dropped out and she got a part anyways! She realized, “acting is definitely not the biggest or most important element of theater, but this is my way of contributing to a production–I think this is what I’m supposed to do.”

This realization, however, did not fully set in until her adulthood. Tia first worked as a teacher year-round, so there was not much time to spare to devote to acting. Her acting career took off when she decided to take one summer off and audition for a show. She got the part and then “the next audition came, and then the next, and then the next!” Tia took one acting role after another, which rekindled her motivation to pursue acting as a career. We will have the pleasure of seeing Tia Marie Tanzer take the stage by storm as Marianne Angelle from The Revolutionists.

This play is about real historical figures. Tell me about your character. Who is she and how did you prepare for your role?

Marianne Angelle is not a real person in the way that the other characters are real, documented, and have Wikipedia pages. She’s actually an amalgamation of several historical figures. She is a freedom fighter, a spy, an abolitionist, and a free Black woman of St. Domingue who wants everyone else in St. Domingue to be free, as well. Marianne is also a wife, a mom, a daughter, and a lovely, complex person who we get to see on stage.

The preparation doesn’t stop! Unfortunately, because of the way we do things in history–the way we rely on documents and center European thought and methodologies–there’s not as much good information about the women of St. Domingue in the revolution. But, if you look at women like Sanité Bélair and Gran Toya, there are a lot of examples of women’s resistance in that struggle that I think are only now coming to light for most people. I’m sure folks in Haiti have known and been telling these stories for a long time, but the rest of the world is catching up to this neglected part of history. 

What is the most rewarding part of acting in The Revolutionists? Do you have a favorite moment in the show?

I find just preparing for the show to be very rewarding. Building and getting to embody a character when you can convince yourself and others that you’re not yourself I think that’s great. And working with this marvelous team was, of course, rewarding.

It’s interesting, when I was offered the part of Marianne, I was reading Kropotkins’ “History of the French Revolution” because I have an interest in mutual aid and I don’t know a ton about the French Revolution–though I feel like it’s something that I should know more about. For this particular role, because Marianne is not French, she is of St. Domingue–soon to be Haiti–, I started with the wonderful Tumblr that Lauren Gunderson created as almost a dramaturgical document for the show that holds a lot of her inspiration and her sources. That led me to the Library of Congress which has a nice, big bibliography about the Haitian revolution. So I’ve just been reading some of the biographies of women including Sanité Bélair and Gran Toya who were prominent revolutionaries in Haiti. I was really just reading a ton. 

It’s the same with music: I started listening to a lot of Compa and just anything I could find to inject a little bit of what her day might sound like into my day. I also started to listen to some podcasts in Haitian Creole to see if there was anything I could bring or anything I could incorporate in her sound to be more authentic. Honestly, I’m not sure if I have the skill in this short of time to do that but I wanted to get a little more of her world and more of her soundscape in my brain. 

I think for me, my favorite part of the show is when Marianne sort of confronts Olympe about her inaction, fear, and reluctance to show up in the world and to show up for her friends–who are dying and being executed. It is a political argument but it gets very personal between the two women. Things are said on both sides that I think needed saying to bring them into a closer understanding and a better friendship. 

You are the only actress whose character is not based around a real person. Were there particular challenges around capturing a composite of Haitian revolutionists?

I think that Marianne is a very well-drawn and well-constructed character. The play and the script shows very clearly who she is, what moves her, what motivates her, and what she cares for. In that way, all this information makes my job easier

One challenge is that there’s no authoritative source on who she is, so there’s a lot to pull from. The body of work about the Haitian revolution, particularly about women’s role in the Haitian revolution, is pretty small–at least the stuff in English. Capturing Marianne’s character is a challenge because it is a little tough to edit what’s really going to be useful. 

Playing Marianne is challenging because, when you have a really compelling character who is a woman of color, you want to get it right and do her justice. This is a really rich role for someone who looks like me to play–which is not necessarily a given. I think that is all changing, but slowly. And so I just want to eat it up. 

What do you hope audiences will take away from this show?

I hope that audiences will reflect on intersectionality. I hope the show will inspire them to think about their place in the world in terms of their friendship groups, their social groups, their political engagement–or lack thereof. I want them to interrogate where they stand and push themselves forward. I think it’s time to…how does Marianne put it? She goes “You can’t write the world if you’re not in it.” And so I want people to walk away asking themselves: Am I in the world? And, if not, how do I get in it? And how do I bring my friends with me? How do I bring my family with me? How do we all get in it? How do we all get freer?


The Revolutionists is playing on the Park Square Theatre Proscenium Stage from March 31st to April 16th. To buy tickets, please call the box office at 651-291-7005 or visit https://parksquaretheatre.easy-ware-ticketing.com/events


Interview & Article by Victoria Martynko


The box office is currently closed. Please email tickets@parksquaretheatre.org with any questions.

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