A Modern Perspective
Dramaturgs’ Interview With the Cast
Most of the dramaturgy work that we did with the cast was specifically about the historical events of the French Revolution, so we were curious to ask the cast how they saw the play in relation to their own 21st century lives. We asked members of the cast:
What have you drawn on from your own life in the 21st century to recreate these characters and events from the 18th century?
Marie Antoinette is both a person and an idea. It’s a bit tricky getting through her idea-ness to reach her personhood. After all, her life choices symbolized the suffering of millions of starving and suffering people, and it is incredibly unbalanced to allow some to luxuriate while others languish, especially since their suffering is in part due to her actions. But Marie Antoinette was, as we all are, a product of her environment. She as an individual was a part of something bigger, a societal order that was in play long before she was born and continued long after they killed her. But it’s hard to wave hatchets and throw rocks at an ideology, and much easier to threaten a physical person. However, I inhabit that physical person’s mindspace in this play, and she is very much a real human woman with fear and worry and care. I could talk myself in circles about fault and blame and personhood and humanity—but I won’t. I wonder about this in my own life—how much of me is an individual, and how much of me belongs to a greater system that I had no hand in choosing? How much choice, how much liberty, do I really have? And how much does it matter outside of my own bodily experience? These are the questions I grapple with alongside Marie, as we both struggle to understand our circumstances and the “why” of who we are, and what happens to us.
Therese de Lamballe
For me, there is a clear connection between the constant anxiety of Marie Antiionette’s era and our own. This play asks us to examine the ways we ignore what makes us uncomfortable simply because we’re able to, which has made me reflect on the importance of being an active participant in my own learning/unlearning.
The Dauphin, A Sheep (Understudy)
So since I am playing a child, I drew from my experience of me and my brother both growing up. We grew up in a relatively privileged environment, and there are definitely things that I have taken for granted, and there are definitely things that my character is not old enough to understand. So using that foresight in the process of bringing him to life has been very reflective for me. My brother is very much a model for the things I do in this production. I like to say that the Dauphin is in his “monster truck phase,” where he’s a little rebellious and doesn’t quite know the consequences of his actions.
I love Louis, and I was able to apply a surprising amount of my own life into him as a character. His love of clocks and wishing to turn back time really resonated with me. I’m obsessed with the 70’s, and I still love playing with my legos and nerf guns from my childhood. I was able to take my love of those things and apply it to Louis as though he knew what he was missing out on. I also specifically used the line “It wouldn’t hurt to wear a corset or stays” as a reference to him being obsessed with vintage styles, since as of the late 1700’s, when Louis utters the line, stays are already considered vintage.
A Sheep,The Dauphin (Understudy)
Considering that the sheep is such a strange little enigma in this show, I’ve really been pulling from ways that the “wolf in sheep’s clothing” metaphor applies to my own life. Existential crises have been frequent for me during the past two years, and the Sheep sends Marie deeper into her own existential crisis. How can we combat our own inner demons, and how do we personify them? How do we speak to those voices inside of us while actively trying to push onward? The Sheep is more than the all-knowing sage of this 18th century universe we have created; the Sheep has layers of innocence that we slowly pull apart to reveal a true side of nature.
Joseph/Mr. Sauce/Axel (Understudy)
I think a lot of the characters in this show are thrust into very important, stressful roles at a young age. As a college student, I often feel a lot of pressure to do well and to be perfect so that what my parents have sacrificed for me to be here can feel worth it. I think Joseph in particular feels the same pressure (to a much greater degree than me…) about his role as emperor, and that informs most of his behaviors in the show.
Revolutionary 1, 2, and 3
I’m playing the Revolutionary in the show, and, doing this show at this particular time, it is difficult to look at the script without drawing comparisons between the storming of Versailles and that of the Capitol on January 6. The anger that fueled the French Revolution is not all too alien to Americans, whether we would like to admit it or not.
Polignac/Mrs. Sauce/Therese de Lamballe/The Royalist (Understudy)
I pull from my modern life to inspire my characters by thinking of girl chat wine & cheese nights for “a pot of tea” and, on a darker note, thinking of the sensation of the capitol riots for the mob’s storming of the Bastille and Versailles.
Interview by Lee Forrest and Allison Taafe, who are serving as Assistant Directors and Dramaturgs for this production.
Emerson Stage’s production of Marie Antoinette by David Adjmi opens to the public on Thursday, November 18 at 8 p.m. EST and runs through November 21 at 2 p.m. EST. More information and limited availability of tickets are available at emersonstage.org/marie-antoinette.