Adapted from an interview with Leilani Schaller.
The Fall play is The Revolutionists by Lauren Gunderson, can you tell me a little bit about it?
The Revolutionists is about these four badass women during the French Revolution. They’re all a little different in their own ways but at the end of the day, they’re all part of the revolution. It’s really cool to see the way their relationships form and the different ways in which they’re fighting for change.
What character do you play?
I play Charlotte Corday. Charlotte is the youngest character in the play. I think she’s twenty-five and the rest of the women are in their early thirties or mid thirties. She’s definitely like, naive isn’t the word…she’s definitely very brave, and I think the fact that she’s young, she makes more drastic decisions than the other women would. She’s like, “I have a cause” and she does whatever she feels she needs to do about it, regardless of the consequences. In her case, she is an assassin and she ends up assassinating this guy who is a writer and he encourages the beheading of all these innocent people so she assassinates him to try to save the lives of a ton of other people.
I was talking with Amy (the director, Amy Sarno) the other day because we each had individual time with her to talk about our characters and to learn more information about them and that was interesting because we were looking at different photos of her and stuff. We thought it was interesting because she ends up killing this guy, obviously. Which is this incredibly violent, aggressive act, but it seems in these drawings of her, she still seems to carry herself well and she seems almost delicate. Which is really interesting because I was playing her very rigid and aggressive at first and it has definitely provided some more insight on how to play her. And I know I mentioned earlier, she’s not really, it’s not that she’s not afraid of the consequences, but like, she assassinates this guy with the knowledge of what the consequences are but still the guts to be like, “No, I’m doing this.” Which is really cool and it’s even more interesting because we talked about how a lot of women stayed away from her even though she challenged societal ideas. Like this woman is an assassin and a lot of women stayed away from her because in certain ways she put the feminist movement at risk and hindered things. I think a lot of women were working really hard to make changes and then I think when Charlotte assassinated this guy very boldly, it challenged the roles of women and I think people got frustrated and it messed some things up as far as women getting more privileges and receiving more rights.
As far as rehearsing scenes, do you guys have a specific way that the director does things with you or is it different every day?
That’s a good question. It depends. Sometimes we’ll run a whole scene, sometimes we’ll really focus on a section of a scene. Aside from working on scenes we also have been working on a song that’s actually part of the play. So sometimes we carve out time during rehearsals to work on practicing that and the different emotions we want to get across in that song. We’ve been working on playing with some delivery of lines here and there. Aside from playing Charlotte, there are these two characters in the play called Fraternité. Sage and I are both Fraternité and we have been working on those characters as well. Essentially, I don’t want to say they’re entirely separate from our characters because I feel like they serve some sort of point about our characters being the Fraternité, but they are this embodiment of masculinity because we are sort of in charge of a couple of the trials. So we’ve been working on what that sort of character is like. Working on developing character in general and sometimes that just means while you’re working throughout the scene or maybe it means working separately from the scene and just talking about it. But it all depends. We do quite a few different things in rehearsal.
Yeah. That’s really cool. It’s also interesting to hear about the Fraternité being masculinity because fraternité actually means brotherhood in French so it’s very interesting to turn that into a concept.
It’s pretty cool. Amy was saying how she wanted us to embody that when we looked at the gender spectrum, she wanted us to go all the way over there. It’s been interesting because I always think it’s fun to play a very dramatic character or an odd character and to me in certain ways, the Fraternité character seems odd or weird or cool. And it’s just cool to play something – I love my role as Charlotte, but it’s just cool to play these two different roles in the same play.
Can I ask, what’s been one of the hardest things to tackle in rehearsal?
I honestly think there are two things that have been the most difficult things. One thing that we’ve been figuring out is blocking. In some areas it’s a little tighter than others so getting around a table or whatever, which sounds like it wouldn’t be that hard but sometimes there are these fast crosses to another character and we have to figure out how those movements work onstage. But also, personally for me, with the rehearsal clothes, I have a small torso and my corset I feel like is fairly long and sitting down…obviously sitting down or doing things in corsets is already difficult but like it’s weird because sometimes it just sort of does weird things and I just feel like it fits me funny. So moving around in that has been weird at times but I know that Shelbi is making us all personalized corsets so I know it won’t be an issue later.
You’ve mentioned rehearsal costumes a bit, do you feel like these rehearsal costumes help you explore the character a little bit more?
I think so. I do think, for instance, the corsets are helpful in helping me carry myself in the best way. I have horrible posture too so that doesn’t help. For me in the past, developing a character’s physicality has always really helped me dive into my character. So when I put on the corset it changes the way that my body moves which I think helps me get more into Charlotte’s character. The skirts are fun too and I think shoes, especially, can help you change the way you walk because I’ve got a little bit of a heel. I also think in general, getting into different articles of clothing that you wouldn’t normally wear changes something and can make it easier for me to get out of who I am versus who is this character.
What have you been enjoying the most about the rehearsal process?
I think I’ve been enjoying doing a comedy because I haven’t done a comedy in a while. And honestly, that’s been really fun. Just making people laugh, making the SMs (stage managers) laugh, it’s like, “Wow this is gonna be a good time once we get to a bigger audience!” That’s been the most fun part for me. Just working on the comedy aspect of the show and having a good time working on it.
How do you balance rehearsal, classwork, and a social life? Has it been difficult these past few weeks?
Yes. It’s always hard. Even in past years with different shows, not even necessarily here at the college, it’s always hard having these few hours of your day dedicated to this one thing all the time. And I understand that we do that with class, but when you have this extracurricular that you’re carving all this time out for, not to mention outside time you’re devoting to working on lines and such, it can be difficult trying to balance everything. Sometimes it’s hard because I do a lot of homework around rehearsal time so it’s been hard trying to get myself to do homework outside of my normal time. It’s also been more difficult getting together with people. But at the end of the day it is doable. It’s just that things are a little more hectic for a while. You just gotta make a few adjustments.
You’re a sophomore and you’ve been in two Beloit College productions before, yes?
Those were both on Zoom. How has it been with in person rehearsals now? Are there any big differences you’ve experienced? Is there a different energy? Is it more fun to do it in person than on Zoom?
It’s been really nice to get back in person. The Zoom shows were fine, but Zoom shows are their own kind of monster. It’s hard with figuring out technology and in my opinion, it is hard to interact with other people. So getting back onstage has been really nice. It makes it a lot easier to develop not only my character because on Zoom, it’s only your torso and above. Those are the parts you focus on, so being on stage has helped me really get into my character because you’re able to move more and it’s helped me develop my character’s relationships with other people in the play because you’re in the same space and you can interact more easily. And just in general I feel like the rehearsal process is a lot more enjoyable. At least for me it is. Over Zoom you can’t really talk to people when you’re not onstage practicing something, so it’s also nice to be able to form those personal relationships with people outside of the show. Which is one of the things I’ve always enjoyed about being involved in theatre.
Is there anything you want to tell our readers about why they should come see The Revolutionists?
They should come see The Revolutionists because theatre-makers don’t get enough credit. We work really hard to do what we do and we spend a lot of time and effort, so they should come and support all the hard work we put into the show!