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Jewel Theatre Hosts: “Marie Antoinette”

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Parker Fretheim (‘19) and Morgan Fanning (‘20) embrace in “Marie Antoinette.”

Parker Fretheim (‘19) and Morgan Fanning (‘20) embrace in “Marie Antoinette.”

Photo courtesy of Brittany Todd

Photo courtesy of Brittany Todd

Parker Fretheim (‘19) and Morgan Fanning (‘20) embrace in “Marie Antoinette.”

Natalie Nelson, Staff Writer

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Let them eat cake! “Marie Antoinette” opened in Jewel Theatre on Thursday, May 3.

The show is performed in the round, which means that the audience is on all sides and actors perform in the middle. The production begins on the outskirts of the stage and moves in closer to the middle with each consecutive scene until Marie Antoinette is trapped in the center of the stage.

The production is Laila Sahir’s (‘18) senior project. Sahir said she found ways to make Marie’s power evident, such as having other characters copy her gestures and turn to her for approval.

“Making her the center of the focus on stage and having her initiate action was a simple way to clarify the relationships and put her in power, which is not something that we often do with Marie Antoinette,” Sahir said. “She’s a monarch that we love to hate.”

By focusing on Marie Antoinette, Sahir hopes to give the audience perspective on the story of the French Revolution.

“We often like to align ourselves with the revolutionaries because it’s exciting,” Sahir said. “Revolution is important, but in order to do the right thing, it’s important to recognize that there are good people on the other side. You put yourself in a really dangerous spot when you remove the humanity from the other.”

Sahir said she was inspired by her involvement with last year’s production of “Twelfth Night.”

“For me, the process was focused on, as a female actress and character, ‘how do I portray maleness?’” Sahir said. “That’s when I first started looking at how people behave in society.”

Mikaela Hanrahan (‘21) experiences a similar process playing Marie’s brother. She said adapting to play a wealthy male character is challenging.

“I talked a lot with [Sahir] and [Assistant Professor of Theatre Robert Vrtis] on how to incorporate several mannerisms of the time into this role,” Hanrahan said. “We talked about keeping a strict, high jaw, standing straight up, and taking up as much space as I could.”

John Kuntz (‘19) composed the music for the show. He focused on making the music enhance scenes and communicate feelings.

“It was important that the music evolve with the play, adapting to the intensifying environment surrounding Marie,” Kuntz said. “I used primarily midi [synthesized] instruments. The material itself was rooted in 18th-century style, transforming throughout the play to fit the character development of Marie. I like to think that the fakeness of midi instruments represented Marie’s feelings of inauthenticity and superfluity.”

Morgan Fanning (‘20) plays Marie Antoinette and is excited to play a historical figure.

“I have to make sure I portray her accurately,” Fanning said. “I want to justify all of her actions because I do not think she was a bad person. So I’ve done a ton of research, which is something you can’t do for most plays.”

Fanning said one of the most challenging elements is the costumes.

“I had a dress where we just couldn’t fit it,” Fanning said. “It was made for a very small person and I almost fainted. They had to take the dress off me on stage. People literally lived in these tight dresses and I can’t do it for 15 minutes.”

Fanning hopes that the audience can see the humanity in Marie Antoinette.

“I think that many people are similar to Marie in the sense that they just want to please everybody,” Fanning said. “In the second act especially, there are some lines that relate to the world today: that you can’t just think about yourself and you have to work together in order to create a good world.”

“Marie Antoinette” will be performed on Friday, May 11 and Saturday, May 12 at 7:30 p.m.

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