One of the mainstage productions this semester is a four-women play titled “The Revolutionists.” The play, written by Lauren Gunderson, follows four fictional and nonfictional women alike: playwright Olympe de Gouges, assassin Charlotte Corday, former queen Marie Antoinette, and Haitian rebel Marianne Angelle, during the French Revolution’s Reign of Terror. The cast includes Cecilia Casper (‘24), Anya Kapitula (‘26), Bri Tomczak (‘24) and Tia Hockenhull (‘23).
On Hope’s campus news page, director Daina Robins describes the play as, “A dark and raucous comedy that addresses huge topics– art and activism, story and history, feminism and revolution. Set in late-18th century Paris, it takes us on a wild ride through fact and fiction, performance and reality, as four women grapple with their legacy, their life’s purpose, and their surprising friendships.”
Approaching the Role of Charlotte Corday with Anya Kapitula
Anya Kapitula is a freshman this year at Hope and she is the only underclassman in the cast. She plays Charlotte Corday, a historic figure who assassinated Jean-Paul Marat in 1793. While Corday was an influential figure in the French Revolution, in the play the character’s main goal is to figure out what her last words will be, since she knows the assassination will result in her being killed.
In discussion about her character, Kapitula said, “She is a very interesting character to play. I really like her a lot, she’s very fun, very witty, very sarcastic. She’s smart, she’s resourceful, she wants to make something of herself. In terms of how I relate to her […] it’s really interesting exploring that aspect of what it means to make history and exploring what’s my life’s purpose, what am I doing for the world. So exploring that type of question has been really interesting.”
Playing any character brings its set of challenges, for Corday specifically, Kapitula said, “She’s very very passionate, all of the time and she switches it up all the time. I would say the hardest part is maintaining that energy and figuring out her thought processes on some things. In one sense she’s not super hard for me to play, I love Laura Gunderson’s writing and just the way the lines are written so I’m not finding it too terribly difficult. But a lot of it is just making sure I am getting the right point across and just keeping the energy up.”
Since these characters were real historical people, the approach to portraying them is often based on research. For Kapitula, she said, “It’s interesting having to do the research and knowing the facts about her, but then using that information to actually create the emotional state and motivations of a character. It’s a very interesting shift that I’m not sure if I’ve fully figured out yet.”
What is it like from the freshman point of view?
Not only is Kapitula the only freshman in the cast, but this is also her first Hope College production other than the 10-minute plays in the fall 2022 semester, “Doritos, Love, and the Lack Thereof.” She comments on this saying, “This is my first show here, I wouldn’t call myself incredibly experienced in theatre. I did productions in high school but that was pretty much the limit of my experience coming into Hope. So coming in, I was definitely kind of terrified.”
Kapitula follows up on this, commenting on the experience she’s had working in the production and as the only freshman, “My fellow actors/cast mates, they are all incredibly talented and they’re also all upperclassmen and they’re all more experienced than I am. So it was very intimidating for me, walking into the first couple of rehearsals. But the more we got into the show I was growing in my self-confidence in how I portray the character. Everyone is so amazing and just so supportive and I have so much fun. I’m incredibly thankful that my first show was this play and this group that I’m working with. It’s really great.”
Kapitula Talks “The Revolutionists”
As a comedy, Kapitula found that, “There’s a lot of moments where I’m on stage and I’m trying not to laugh. It’s just really funny. Bri’s character, Mary Antoinette, is so funny, her entire character is just hilarious to me. I especially love her interactions with Tia, who plays Marianne, because they have this weird little rivalry. It’s a really funny show. It’s weird but it’s really good. I am really excited for people to see it.”
While it is a fun comedy, “The Revolutionists” covers serious topics about the French Revolution and an important message in the incorporation of history with art. Kapitula noted that because the play is set two and a half centuries ago, it may not seem as relevant.
But, Kapitula found, “It has to deal with the power of art and how art interacts with politics. And how all of that combined is what creates history, and the importance of art and history. And I think that through the show I’m reminding people of that importance. I think it’s really important– during this time in which there’s a lot of misinformation, a lot of conflict, a lot of division– to realize that art brings people together. And art can tell the important stories of those who have not had their stories heard, whether it be women or people of color or any other marginalized group. It’s important to tell their stories because by telling their stories through art that’s how their stories are going to be remembered.”
Tickets for “The Revolutionists” are free for students. Performances will be in the Dewitt Studio Theatre Feb. 17, 18, 23, 24, and 25 at 7:30 pm and Feb. 19, 25, 26 at 2 pm.