The Revolutionists, a comedic, feminist reclamation of history, to hit Harper Joy Theater

Elise Sanders, Campus Life Reporter

Four women, who’ve survived in our collective memory as mournful, headless figures of a bygone era, will live once more, resuscitated by Laura Gunderson in her 2017 play “The Revolutionists.” On Thursday, Sept. 30, these women will walk across the stage at Harper Joy Theater, not as a tragedy, but rather a comedy.

“The Revolutionists” is a feminist comedy centered around four women who were decapitated during the French Reign of Terror: playwright and political activist Olympe de Gouges, Queen Marie Antoinette, assassin Charlotte Corday and Marianne Angelle, a composite character of Black, female Haitian rebels. Written into a room, the four women interact with each other, discussing and joking, all the while grappling with the horrors of their time.

The actors prepare in the dressing room. Photo by Nathaniel Martin.

“This is a funny play, but also a very political play, one that I think is extremely relevant to our time,” Christopher Petit, a theater professor and the director of “The Revolutionists,” said. “It depicts a world of greed, wealth disparity, racism, sexism, and violence—a world not so different from our own.”

Lucy Evans-Rippy, the senior theater major playing Olympe, touched on the timelessness of the play, particularly that of her affinity towards her own character, a woman who’s been dead for centuries.

“I’m a theater major, creative writing minor, so it was really cool that this was an opportunity to play a role that combines two parts of my identity, which is this character super obsessed with the theater, because she’s a playwright, and also super obsessed with writing a play—so it’s two aspects of me, ” Evans-Rippy said. 

Evans-Rippy talked about her character, Olympe with a deep understanding of this woman, her personality and her despair as a result of her unfortunate, untimely fate.

“[Olympe]’s very zany. She’s frantic, at least at this point in time. There’s a lot of fear around the guillotine, the death, the impending doom. The guillotine is like a fifth character in the play. She’s very desperate to create something before she’s gone. It’s pretty much what it is, and this kind of despair, holding onto her legacy, and yet this knowledge, knowing that it will probably be erased, is a big part of who she is,” Evans-Rippy said.

Senior Lola Bloom features as Marie Antoinette. Photo by Nathaniel Martin.

Although set in a bleak time period, around characters who died under tragic circumstances, “The Revolutionists” is still, at the end of the day, a comedy. 

“It is a comedy, and yet, there’s this huge, looming fear, and so trying to create space for that, within all this comedic timing, and acknowledging the period of time the Reign of Terror was taking place in, finding that balance,” Evans-Rippy said.

Julia Etrusco, junior theater and film double major and stage manager for “The Revolutionists,” remarked on the comedic aspect not as facetious, but as a celebration of these women.

“There are some very dramatic and sad moments, but I feel like it’s better to see the lighter side of these women,” Etrusco said.

The play gives these four women, who are remembered for the grisly nature of their deaths, an opportunity to be women, not just martyrs or targets of smear campaigns. They laugh, they talk, they fear. They can just, simply, be.

Before she was executed, Olympe de Gouges’ last words were, “Children of the homeland, avenge my death.” 

Evans-Rippy remarked that this could be interpreted in a variety of ways but, from the way she sees it, Olympe viewed theater as this vengeance. In this case, vengeance, according to Evans-Rippy, means, “Don’t let me be forgotten.”

“The fact that we’re still telling her story, and how that’s a huge part of this play, who will tell my story? How will it be told? And so, getting to do this play, getting to tell her story, while acknowledging the fact that there was a large gap in her history for so long, and now she’s here again. It’s cool to think about how we had the power to do that through theater and through stories,” Evans-Rippy said.

Four women whose perspectives were ignored, who were vilified, misrepresented and treated as spectacles upon their deaths, now have their stories told. In “The Revolutionists,” they are treated in a manner that Robespierre wouldn’t have wanted. A delightful, comedic vengeance.

“The Revolutionists” will run from Thursday, Sept. 30Sunday, Oct. 3rd. Tickets can be found online at