THE REVOLUTIONISTS: A Preview With Sarah Goeden (Strawdog Theatre)

By Cesar Gonzales | cesar@viastage.com
(left to right) Sarah Goeden, Izis Mollinedo, Kat McDonnell, Kamille Dawkins. Photo by Collin Quinn Rice.
(left to right) Sarah Goeden, Izis Mollinedo, Kat McDonnell, Kamille Dawkins. Photo by Collin Quinn Rice.

CHICAGO (Nov 25, 2018) — Getting inside the mind of an actor before opening night is like being shown a secret passageway into the play and the acting process. My interview with Sarah Goeden did not disappoint, as she opened up about her acting experiences and her new role as Marie Antoinette in the play THE REVOLUTIONISTS at Strawdog Theatre through Dec. 29.

“THE REVOLUTIONISTS tells a story of four women who made history during the French Revolution: playwright Olympe de Gouge attempts to write something politically meaningful for which she will be remembered. Charlotte Corday plots to assassinate one of the Revolution’s most evil participants. Deposed Queen Marie Antoinette grapples with her recent losses. Marianne Angelle, free woman of color and Caribbean spy, fights to expand the nation’s notion of liberty to include women of color. When Lauren Gunderson puts these four women in the same room, questions arise about art’s ability to make meaningful change, whether violence is ever the right course of action and what on earth a woman’s role can be in the midst of the madness” according to a news release.

Ms. Goeden is clearly excited about this play because it speaks to urgent issues that we – particularly women – face today: “It feels like a story that should be told right now. It’s focused on women’s voices and the voices of the disenfranchised within a society”. At the same time, its characters are “modern, funny and real” while respecting the tragic Reign of Terror period of the French Revolution.

The story shines a light on themes of equity and agency, which bear similarities to France’s “Liberté, égalité, fraternité” (liberty, equality, fraternity), and our own “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”. But are we there yet on an everyday basis? Is there work left for us to do to achieve true equity and agency? To help us ponder these and other questions, THE REVOLUTIONISTS aims to take us to an energetically entertaining world that is historical and modern, funny and serious, privileged and less privileged.

Fully immersed into her role, Ms. Goeden is excited to help tell a timely story about an epochal moment in history. This excerpt of my interview with her shows us an artist with deep respect for her character, this play, and the acting profession…

VS: What drew you to acting?

SG: “I was in my first play when I was 8 years old and I honestly think that the reason I wound up auditioning is: my piano teacher at the time wanted somebody to carpool with, so she convinced my mom to have me audition… Starting with that first show, I haven’t gone a year out of my life, until I was pregnant, without doing a play… I just love it.”

VS: What got you excited about THE REVOLUTIONISTS?

SG: “It feels like a story that should be told right now. It’s focused on women’s voices and also voices of the disenfranchised within a society… and then beyond that, it’s so funny. I feel like they [the characters] are so colorful when I read their voices because they’re based on real people… and at the same time they’re written by a woman, Lauren Gunderson, who I think is such a gifted writer and writes women that are very modern, funny and real. So you’ve got this sort of mix of history along with characters that feel easy to relate to because they remind me of people that I actually know, and that combination is very compelling.”

VS: The French Revolution’s Reign of Terror was a tragic period in history. But yet THE REVOLUTIONISTS uses comedy as a structural form. What are your thoughts about that irony?

SG: “Well, I think comedy helps us be able to talk about and let in horror, sadness, darker concepts and feelings. And this play, while it is a comedy, is certainly not always a comedy… It’s certainly not a traditional comedy, and without giving too much away, it certainly also has very serious parts and takes the topic of the Reign of Terror seriously.”

VS: What is it about our current events that makes THE REVOLUTIONISTS an important play to see today?

SG: “I feel like politically, on a local level, on a national level, on an international level, there’s a lot to fight for right now… so ultimately I think this play can help empower us to participate in history as it is unfolding right now.”

VS: Is there something about your character, deposed Queen Marie Antoinette, that you admire or find interesting?

SG: “Well when she enters the story,… as a woman who comes from privilege, who is not necessarily aware of her effect or impact on so, so many people around her,… when men were the people that were crafting the story around her, when men were the people making the decisions for her about who to marry, who to politically align with, how to dress – there’s very little that she got to decide on her own… And during the story, we see her start to form real friendships, and through those friendships she starts to realize her privilege. And through that realization, she starts to understand something about some of the agency that she and other women potentially have.”

VS: Is there anything about the play you’d like to add?

SG: “I think it’s really funny, until it’s not [she laughs]. I think the world of it is really beautiful. I feel like there’s a mix of sort of high art along with a kind of punk Graham, and elements that feel very modern and elements that feel like they’re coming out of history, and I enjoy very much being a part of the design team’s world that they’ve created.”

VS: How did this project help you grow as an artist?

SG: “Well this is my first role since my son was born… What I’ve learned the most is how to be a mom and an actress and how those two roles in my life influence each other.”

VS: Do you have any advice for new actors just starting out?

SG: “I would say, see as much theater as you can… and find the people that are doing the work that inspires you… I feel like chasing fame is something that will leave people burnt out and insecure very quickly, but what fills you as an artist is finding what inspires you… reading, seeing other art, having experiences, finding your own viewpoint and your own inspiration. And then try to work with the people that do inspire you, that will help you find your artistic voice and the people that you’re meant to be working with in this lifetime – and then I think you’re on your way to becoming an artist.”

For more information about THE REVOLUTIONISTS, click here.

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