Barry McNamara  |  Published February 02, 2022

‘The Revolutionists’

After two-year wait, Lauren Gunderson’s comedy to be staged on campus Feb. 17-20.

MONMOUTH, Ill. – The next production in Monmouth College’s 2021-22 theatre season – Lauren Gunderson’s The Revolutionists – has been “two years in the making.”

'THE REVOLUTIONISTS': Lauren Gunderson's comedic play, which premiered in 2016, to be... 'THE REVOLUTIONISTS': Lauren Gunderson's comedic play, which premiered in 2016, to be performed at Monmouth College.Originally scheduled on campus for the spring of 2020, the comedy was a casualty of the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. But director Vanessa Campagna is now finally able to bring the “accessible” play to life. It will be staged Feb. 17-20 in the College’s Wells Theater.

“It’s very fun, and wow, will audiences see some fine acting from very strong student actors,” said Campagna.

That fine acting includes three of the four students who were scheduled to play their roles in 2020: Emma Wohlstadter ’22 of Macomb, Illinois; Allie Bryan ’22 of Abingdon, Illinois; and Gabriela Madu ’23 of Montego Bay, Jamaica. The newcomer is Celeste Lythgoe ’24 of Lafayette, Colorado.

The four students will portray, respectively, playwright Olympe De Gouge, assassin Charlotte Corday, French colonial rebel Marianne Angelle and former queen (and fan of ribbons) Marie Antoinette – four women who lived boldly in France during the French Revolution’s Reign of Terror in the 1790s.

“This is two years in the making,” said Campagna. “Unequivocally, it has been worth the wait.”

One of America’s most-produced playwrights

Campagna is especially excited to be directing a play by Gunderson.

VANESSA CAMPAGNA: Monmouth theatre professor was originally set to direct The Revolutionist... VANESSA CAMPAGNA: Monmouth theatre professor was originally set to direct "The Revolutionists" in the spring of 2020.“Lauren Gunderson is a contemporary American female playwright,” said Campagna. “She’s quite prolific, and all of her plays are really accessible. They’re smart plays, and she writes really strong characters, imaginative work. Her characters are very rich, very complicated.”

Gunderson was named the most produced playwright in America by American Theatre Magazine in 2017 and 2019. The Revolutionists premiered in 2016.

“The given circumstances – the when and the where – are another time and place, but the language is very modern, very 21st century,” said Campagna. “(Gunderson) brilliantly blends those two distinct periods, and it works.”

In addition to the costumes and set design, the audience will receive help in their transportation to a different time through the efforts of a recently retired Monmouth music professor.

“Music figures prominently in the production,” said Campagna. “I could not be more thrilled that Carolyn Suda will be playing cello live for the production. Her baroque cello music … will really ground us in the late 18th century.”

The show must go on

Although The Revolutionists was not staged on schedule, it was the only production sidetracked by the pandemic, a fact that Campagna and the rest of her theatre colleagues attribute to a collaborative effort.

“Music figures prominently in the production. I could not be more thrilled that Carolyn Suda will be playing cello live for the production. Her baroque cello music … will really ground us in the late 18th century.” Vanessa Campagna

“So many theatre programs across the country are not back in full force yet,” she said, crediting the College’s COVID policies, as well as internal protocols within her department, for the shows continuing to go on at Monmouth. “The students are following the rules. We can have tons of policies, but at the end of the day, no one is in their dorm with them to follow them around and make sure they’re being safe and smart. They are committed to their own health and safety and committed to their art. In two years, we’ve not had a single person involved in a production test positive.”

And that’s important, said Campagna, as theatre majors begin to think of life after Monmouth.

“Across the campus, we’re just very committed to ensuring students are prepared to be successful in their careers, and for theatre, that means you have to have a résumé with production credits,” she said. “Our students need that. It’s what they’re paying for. It’s our ethical responsibility, as a department, to find ways to do that.”

Those attending The Revolutionists will be required to wear masks, but seating will not be socially distanced. Campagna said the play is equivalent to a movie rated PG-13 due to strong language.

# # #

Monmouth College will present “The Revolutionists” at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 17-19 and at 2 p.m. Feb. 20 at Wells Theater on campus. Tickets can be purchased online at Tickets are $10 for adults, $8 for seniors and students, and $6 for students and faculty with a Monmouth College ID.

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