Mainstage play “Marie Antionette” showings cut short

The mainstage play “Marie Antionette” closed early with the final date moved to March 12.

The cast of the production started their day off on March 12 unsure of the show’s fate. After their first four-show run the week prior, the play had to cut three remaining shows scheduled for that weekend due to gathering policies established to prevent the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19), making the March 12 show the last.

House Manager Ellie Pearson ’20 said the uncertainty was difficult for those involved in the production. 

“We all just wanted to know what was going to happen,” Pearson said. “Had we already done our last show? Cast members were devastated, especially the seniors, that this beautiful show would be cut short.”

The cast was relieved to find out they would have one more show, but seniors especially struggled with the abrupt cancelations. Olivia Mathews ’20, who played the lead role of Marie Antoinette, expressed that the cancellations were a hardship for her and her family.

“There were definitely some tears … before the show, thinking that this is going to be our last one,” Mathews said. “I also had family that were flying in for closing night and they all canceled their flights, so personally it’s been pretty devastating.”

According to Pearson, the cast put all of their effort into the closing show with a nearly full crowd in the Main Stage theater. Members of the cast said they were happy with their performances so far and were excited to have one more night to present what they had been working on for six weeks.

“When we found out that we would be able to have one last performance, we were at least excited to get a chance to have a true closing night,” Pearson said. “There was a mixture of tears and excitement.”

Associate Professor of Theatre and Director Rebecca Lingafelter said it was important that the show was canceled.

“In terms of canceling, I would say that while it is disappointing, I think the health of our community and beyond is a priority right now,” Lingafelter said via email.

Cast members echoed this sentiment.

“I definitely understand the safety concerns, especially with a show like this — it’s not isolated to campus,” Mathews said. “Lots of people come from off campus, so even though there’s no corona(virus) cases on campus, we’re inviting a bigger audience.”

Lingafelter said she finds the play, written by David Adjmi, relevant in times like that of a pandemic. The play has a personal narrative aspect that deals with what a woman does when her entire life changes rapidly in ways that she is not equipped to deal with.

Lingafelter said attendees can use this personal narrative and the questions it presented as a useful way to frame their experiences in a quickly changing world.

“The play asks, ‘What is your capacity to change?’” Lingafelter said. “Which I think is a profoundly important question right now, whether it’s coronavirus or climate change or societal change — we’re all living inside of these extreme paradigm shifts.”

Many have argued that COVID-19 also brings to light systemic inequalities in the U.S., which is something “Marie Antoinette” aspires to do by comparing the French Revolution to the modern American social and political climate. The play incorporates more recent history by including modern day slang, musical interludes with pop hits of today and choreography inspired by “voguing,” a style of dance created by the LGBTQ+ community, inspired by the images in Vogue.

Lingafelter wrote about the play’s parallel with current times in her director’s statement.

“The resonances between 18th century France and 21st century America are chilling — rampant inequality, the instability of political and social institutions, a glorification of image over substance,” Lingafelter wrote.

For Evelyn Wohlbier ’23, who was casted as Marie Antoinette’s best friend Thérèse de Lamballe, the play served an important role during a health crisis like this. As social distancing is becoming more required, she said that the impact of a live performance has significant power. 

Wohlbier said that the last show was a way to occupy attendees minds with something other than COVID-19 for the duration of the play, while still connecting with the audience’s heightened emotions.

“Just instilling ideas shows how theater is so important in this day and age,” Wohlbier said. “You have people sit down and come to a show that they’re expecting to laugh and be entertained and walk away with some serious thought provoking ideas.”

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