The Revolutionists

or, a handful of moments that were truly our own

Written Febuary 19th, 2019

Before: I helped with some set construction, and the load in, for Three Sisters' The Revolutionists. In exchange I recieved two comps, so I invited my friend Lili to come see the show with me on a Saturday night. I had seen the set and am familiar with Three Sisters' work, but knew relatively little about the Revolutionists specifically.

The set was made up of risers and flats made up to look like books, letters, and papers. I knew it included a guillotine. Based on this, and the poster, I knew the show was set during the French Revolution. Three Sisters do theatre about women. According to their own advertisements, they started making theatre because not enough shows in Ottawa passed the Bechdel test. I worked on and watched their show The Clean House last year, which was, I think, a story about platonic love between women. I liked seeing the relationships unfold in The Clean House, but I didn't find the world it was set in particularly interesting.

Lili and I were sitting in the third row, right in the center. I hadn't eaten much all day and was somewhat exhausted from working all morning, then going to visit a friend in the hospital. I think being tired and underfed is becoming a recurring theme in my blog posts.

After: The shows I have loved are the ones that have effected me strongly. The first show that comes to mind was Delirium at Ottawa's Fringe Fest two years ago. As the play finished, the performer sang The Flaming Lips' Do You Realize. I sat and listened to him ask me whether I realize that some day everyone I know will die, and I saw the woman sitting in front of me turn her head. For a moment I saw my mother, and she was in her late seventies.

I find myself hesitating to use the phrase altered-consciousness or altered-state, but perhaps this is just the manifestation of some sort of baggage around the desire for the ineffable. Regardless, this sort of experience is what I'd like theatre to create.

To continue, the morning after the show I had some sort of revelation in the shower. For a moment I knew something, I think, but as soon as I tried to translate what I was feeling/recognizing into language it was gone. I tried to verbalize it throughout the day, but it felt like trying to recall a dream after you've already had your morning coffee and cigarettes.

I think The Revolutionists did this to me, and when I took a nicotine break from writing this I think I came to understand what happened. The most touched (or moved) I feel is by moments of insurgence (as in "rising up"). The Revolutionists is full of these moments. I think the root of the story is a group of women finding the courage to face the terror of life and death. This, I think, was the desire I recognized for a moment in the shower that morning.

A moment of revelation like this creates a question, or perhaps a provocation. If you think you've recognized some deep desire or need within yourself, will you try to fulfill it, and if so, how? In the case of this play, its conclusion and my response to it feel like a departure more than a conclusion.