This Saturday, Bwog staffer Maya Corral attended Revolt. She Said. Revolt Again., an exploration of Alice Birch’s graphic and shocking interpretation of violence against women. This play, directed by Colette Robert, is not for the faint of heart.
I entered the Minor Latham Playhouse with very little context of Revolt. She Said. Revolt Again., and soon found that I was in for a much more gruesome and real story than I had anticipated.
Revolt. She Said. Revolt Again. sharply examines the patriarchy and the power that masculinity holds, demanding the question of how our language, relationships, and work affect the violence that women face daily. Throughout the play, words are displayed on the backdrop insisting on revolution. The play ends with a call to action, with the four female characters— played by Nell Bailey (BC ‘19), Asha Futterman (BC ‘21), Pearl Mutnick (GS ‘19), and Phanesia Pharel (BC ‘21)— build an imaginary tower of language, using contradictory images of femininity such as cellulite, pornography, high heels, and hymens to make a connection between linguistics and the world in which we live.
The play follows a series of vignettes enacted in front of a simple green background. The lighting and projections design (Aviva Kamens GS ‘21, Zoey Massie BC ‘20, Edward T. Morris, and Marina Ruojia Yang BC ‘21) was stunning, adding to the acting instead of distracting from it. Each scene begins with the deconstruction of language and relationships, and ends in an explosion. In the first scene, a woman demands that a man (Diego Lomeli, CC ‘21) reconsider his language in the bedroom. Instead of “make love to,” she prefers “make love with,” and so on. At the end of the scene, they call it off, and part ways.
The opening scene deals with language in a visceral sense, asking audience members to consider the language we use in all areas of our lives, not just in certain scenarios. The scenes that follow are more standard. In one, a woman wants to take Mondays off, much to her boss’s dismay. In another, a woman rejects a marriage proposal from her partner (Rupert Fennessy, CC ‘21), suggesting that it is only because of our capitalist society that they are even having this discussion.
In one particularly gruesome vignette, a woman confronts her mother who walked out on her. The woman has her own daughter, who is very unhappy herself. The scene ends in devastation, with two of the three women cutting their own tongues out. The stakes rise with each vignette, increasingly forcing audience members to consider the relationship between our language and violence. Words and bodies become one. At one point a woman says, “Because I have given it to you, you cannot rape it,” while lying down naked in the dairy aisle of the grocery store. The narrative is disorientating and difficult to follow, and sometimes it feels as though Birch’s thoughts have been lost in translation. Yet her point comes through: throughout the play, the audience is forced to reconcile their language with the violence that women face, and to consider the relationship between patriarchy, power, and linguistics.
It is no surprise that the play received a standing ovation, and throughout it, snaps were heard as if it were a poetry slam. The actors resonated with their audience members and with the space of Barnard, forcing us to consider what it means to do better by women. As students at a liberal arts institution, we are constantly thinking about how language can be used to liberate and to confine. Birch argues that it may be too late for this vocabulary to change, and for women to be lifted from the prison that is our language. However, she also imagines an apocalyptic future in which the actors are eventually set free through their language.
Revolt. She Said. Revolt Again. ends in a detonation of femininity, with flashing lights and falling fixtures, asking audience members to consider the ways in which our worlds and words collide together to form a society.