Published April 28, 2021


LYNNFIELD — Theatre East of Lynnfield High School is presenting a virtual performance of Lauren Gunderson’s play “The Revolutionists” on Friday, April 30 through Saturday, May 1.

Director John Qualters said “The Revolutionists” is about four strong women living during the French Revolution.

“We have been operating with a cast of four and are receiving technical support from two outstanding Theatre East technicians,” said Qualters.

Senior Grace Mealey is starring as playwright Olympe de Gouges. Senior Aidan Briggs is portraying Charlotte Corday, who assassinated French politician Jean-Paul Marat. Senior Kiera Burns is starring as Queen of France Marie Antoinette. Senior Liz Daly is portraying Marianne Angelle, who fought to free slaves on Saint-Domingue, which was a French colony on the Caribbean island now known as Hispaniola.

THEATRE EAST OF LYNNFIELD HIGH SCHOOL’S production of “The Revolutionists” was made possible by, top row from left, Director John Qualters, creative consultant and LHS Class of 2009 graduate Nelia Miller and senior actress Aidan Briggs. Second row, from left, senior actresses Kiera Burns, Elizabeth Daly and Grace Mealey. Back row, from left, senior technicians Lauren Braconnier and Megan Chann. (Courtesy Photo)

“It is an imagined meeting of these four, coalescing in the mind of de Gouges, as they confront the horrors of the Reign of Terror in Paris circa 1793,” said Qualters. “It was Grace who brought the play to my attention, and it has become the perfect vehicle for the talented young women performing it. The text has a contemporary feel and since we are doing this virtually, we decided to put the play in a social media context with the chaos of Paris in 1793 reflected by the chaos of our own world today. Gunderson is the most produced playwright in America today. She often writes about strong women confronting a male-dominated world.”

Qualters said seniors Lauren Braconnier and Megan Chann are providing technical support for the production.

“Lauren and Megan’s technical work over the last four years has been brilliant,” said Qualters. “They have constructed our guillotine for the production.”

Qualters said Theatre East “struggled” with trying to find a way to perform “The Revolutionists.”

“We tried to find a performance dynamic that would work given the pandemic,” said Qualters. “We explored Reader’s Theater with a socially distanced audience and a performance with masks. None of these allowed for a real telling of the story, so we’ve gone virtual. It has not been easy. We have to keep reminding ourselves that the normal doesn’t exist and we have to take advantage of the means that are available. Performing artists all over the world are doing some extraordinary Zoom productions.”

Qualters said Lynnfield High School Class of 2009 graduate Nelia Miller helped make the performance possible.

“Nelia is an outstanding performance artist living in Minneapolis,” said Qualters. “She first approached me about doing this knowing there would be no State Drama Festival in 2021. Her expertise has given us an opportunity to tell the story without masks in a pandemic safe environment.”

Qualters said Theatre East began discussing ways to perform a play last December.

“We went around and around about how to beat the pandemic,” said Qualters. “We discussed all manner of production avenues with my one requirement, no masks, oftentimes being a sticking point of agreement. We thought about performing ‘The War of the Worlds,’ our own Shakespeare project or something original, all while fighting through what would work best in a virtual environment. ‘The Revolutionists’ is that play.”

Qualters said he is incredibly proud of the way Mealey, Briggs, Burns, Daly, Braconnier and Chann have “committed themselves to this unfamiliar process.”

“They have found ways of making it their own,” said Qualters. “We have all learned. I have no idea of how Theatre East evolves from the pandemic, but I’ve always believed you’re only as good as your current production. And here we are.”

Qualters thanked a number of school officials and staff members for supporting Theatre East over the years, especially this year.

“Principal Bob Cleary has supported Theatre East in all of its endeavors, even to the point of driving the truck to the Drama Festival rehearsal sites,” said Qualters. “Teri Campbell and the high school office staff worked to make the paperwork end of things we do happen. Sandra Bolivar in the Business Office has made a practice of relieving my budget anxieties. These people are all members of Theatre East. Without them, the show doesn’t go on.”

Qualters said townspeople can stream “The Revolutionists” on Friday, April 30, beginning at 12:01 a.m. to Saturday, May 1 at 11:45 p.m. People can visit to watch the performance.

“The show is free and if you might want to contribute to Lynnfield High School Performing Arts, you can do that too,” said Qualters. “We hope you enjoy the show.”