Kristen Coury is the director of The Revolutionists and the Producing Artistic Director at Gulfshore Playhouse.
This is a difficult blog to write. I have had the privilege and pleasure of directing our production of The Revolutionists by Lauren Gunderson. This play takes three female characters who actually lived and historically impacted the French Revolution and adds another character who is working to foment the Haitian Revolution. And voila! We have a hilarious, and oftentimes NOT so hilarious, play about four women that history forgot.
Or do we? Unfortunately, it’s not quite that simple. Doing a play written by a woman, directed by a woman, with a nearly all-female design team, and an all-woman cast isn’t as easy as it sounds. Why? We’ve been trained to see art, and the value of art through a man’s eyes. I direct you to this very interesting article by Lili Loofbourow that ran in The Guardian in early 2018.
Ms. Loofbourow outlines the complex issues and angles that surround art being made by female artists. The entire article is very interesting; it underlines how we dismiss art made by females, hold women to higher standards so that we can (oh wait did I say this already?) dismiss them, and otherwise find ways to write them off. One paragraph really astounded me:
Do what we already automatically do with male art: assume there is something worthy and interesting hiding there. If you find it, admire it. And outline it, so that others will see it too. Once you point it out, we’ll never miss it again. And we will be better for seeing as obvious and inevitable something that previously – absent the instructions – we simply couldn’t perceive.
Do we do that? Yes, I believe we do. I found myself from time to time in rehearsal saying “Okay, that’s very interesting. I wonder how men would do it?” Not because I thought that “portraying women was a bad thing” but because I knew that if we got too smiley, or touchy-feely, or sentimental, some in the audience might tune them out. So instead I heard myself saying “you are soldiers”, “be tough”, “don’t cry”…
The bottom line is this. All art has value. All people have value. We’ve been trained only to see and value that which is exactly like us. It’s time for that to change. This play is a good way to start. Open your mind, and come see a play about four strong women who are not only talking about boyfriends and love affairs but are figuring out how they can change the world.
Am I encouraged by the fact that we have begun to have conversations about equity, gender parity, and equal pay for women and men? Yes. Does that mean that the needle has shifted in any appreciable way? Maybe. Or maybe not. I could tell you about feedback I had from a wide variety of people that has just astounded me, but I don’t want to “rat anybody out” so I’ll be a good girl and keep quiet. Revolutionary voices can be hard to hear, but all I can do is ask you to listen.