Theatre department returns to the stage, for one-night recording of ‘The Revolutionists’

By Aaliyah Murillo, Oct. 19, 2021

Cal Poly Pomona’s Theatre and New Dance Department is back with a virtual stream performance for their latest production “The Revolutionists,” which features an all-woman cast. The show will be available to stream from Oct. 22 through Oct. 30.

“The Revolutionists,” written by Lauren Gunderson, follows the playwright Olympe de Gouges in her dream set during the French Revolution where she hangs out with Marianne Angelle, a Haitan rebel and historical figures, Marie Antoinette and Charlotte Corday. Together, the women fight the patriarchy.

“The Revolutionists” and the all-woman cast, as pictured above. (Photo courtesy of Theatre and New Dance Department)

For the past year, the theatre department had to perform and rehearse remotely through Zoom, but for this production, the cast and crew have returned to work in person, on stage and in the costume shop.

“Each director has a particular point of view of the things they want to bring to light in the show. The cast for this show is my vision,” said Linda Bisesti, director of “The Revolutionists” and head of acting in the Department of Theatre and New Dance. Bisesti picked four actors from diverse backgrounds to represent each “badass” woman as she envisioned them.

“I chose it because the play celebrates women’s rights, and that’s really important especially in today’s world,” said Bisesti. “It’s very important to me as a director to celebrate women playwrights.”

In 2020, the Theatre and New Dance Department moved to teaching on Zoom and producing plays virtually away from the stage.  This will be the first performance the entire company has worked in person and on campus since the switch.

According to Bisesti, the play was rehearsed for six weeks with masks on to build up to Oct. 15, the one night the actors will perform without masks, where the production will be filmed.

Janette Arellano, costume designer and student, is happy to return to the department’s costume shop. “This is my first show in person at Cal Poly, so it is like very big and interesting and fun,” she added.

Arellano was excited to work on renderings from a historical period, especially the costume for Marie Antoinette, which will feature a corset, feathers, pearls and a floor length hem. Each costume is unique to the characters social background.

Arellano mentioned the costume shop has “everything to build your own costume.” All her material came directly from the department, excluding the blue fabric used in Marie Antoinette’s dress. She sourced that one herself.

Arellano brought the fabric to the departments costume room and began bringing her renderings to life, “from fabric to an actual dress which was like amazing,” she said.

Julia Hibner, stage manager and general theatre student, has worked on eight plays at CPP. “It was a really challenging experience and I learned a lot. The first show I had the opportunity to stage manage was virtual,” Hibner noted.

Hibner usually worked as an assistant stage manager, which consisted of focusing on what was assigned of her. Now that she is running the show, she realized how much a show depends on stage management.

“(Stage managing) is pretty much the anchor of the show,” said Hibner.

Sadaf Sharif, an acting student, plays the character of Olympe de Gouges and has not performed on stage for the past three years.

When asked how she felt returning to the stage, Sharif said, “It was really, really great and super fun to experience. It is something I am glad to be back in and get to experience in person with cast and crew and management.”

Last year, Arellano worked together with the lighting, sound, scenic, and projection designers over Zoom and often came across an issue concerning the color palettes for her designs.

“We were all communicating on how it was going to present. As in like scenic if their walls were the same blue as my blue dress,” said Arellano.

(Photo courtesy of Theatre and New Dance Department)

As each designer returned to the theatre, it became easier for Arellano to finalize her renderings by figuring out how the lights played off the fabric and the colors used for the set design.

Hibner works closely with her assistant stage manager Noah Lawrence, who would work on line notes during rehearsals. This is the process of marking the lines which actors are paraphrasing or forgetting completely.

Guests interested in joining  four “badass” women as they advocate for women’s rights during the Reign of Terror, can purchase tickets to the virtual stream at Broadway On Demand in the live events tab under the name The Revolutionists Cal Poly Pomona Theatre and New Dance.

General ticket admission is $5, and it will stream Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 4 p.m.

Correction: This article was edited on Sept. 8 to correct a mention of the play revolving around Marianne Angelle’s dream, when it was revolving around Olympe de Gouges dream.

Featured image courtesy of the Theatre and New Dance Department.

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