PREVIEW: Norristown’s Theatre Horizon pays tribute to #WomenWhoDare with ‘The Revolutionists, ’ art exhibit

Jessica Bedford, Jaylene Clark Owens, Kathyrn McMillan, Claire Inie-Richards, and Charlotte Northeast in rehearsal for “The Revolutionists.”
Jessica Bedford, Jaylene Clark Owens, Kathyrn McMillan, Claire Inie-Richards, and Charlotte Northeast in rehearsal for “The Revolutionists.” PHOTO BY Alex Medvick

How women have been treated throughout history, particularly during the French Revolution, isn’t funny. However, “The Revolutionists,” a play set during the French Revolution, which focuses on prominent females of the time, is a comedy. The production is on stage through Feb. 25 at Theatre Horizon in Norristown.

“All of the language is contemporary,” director Kathryn MacMillan said. “The play tells the story of four famous women or women who should have been famous.”

The women, an assassin, a spy, a writer and Marie Antoinette, plot a murder. The plan is inspired by extremists in Paris. The brave women act in the face of injustice and risk their lives to protect freedom and equality.

“I think considering what is happening (in Hollywood) that women can see the parallels between now and the French revolution,” MacMillan said.


The witty characters possess humor, grace and intelligence as they go about changing the world.

One of the most fascinating figures from the period is Antoinette. “We all know about her ‘let them eat cake’ line,” MacMillan said. “But that line fails to accurately portray who she was. Marie was actually interested in social justice. The ‘let them cake’ line was part of a smear campaign that works just like how it does today in modern politics. It’s slander perpetuated on what someone else has said.”

Antoinette shows up in the play as a character who tries to rehab her reputation. The play, which was written by Lauren Gunderson, is clever and unpredictable. “You better watch out for an ambitious little emperor whose name rhymes with Chapoleon,” the spy character cracks.

“The Revolutionists” is irreverent but intelligent. It’s respectful and deep. One of the most provocative parts is when the focus shifts to tribalism during the French Revolution just like it does now. “History is repeating itself,” MacMillan said. “It’s a tribal time once again with factions. Women are on trial just like Marie Antoinette was. It’s a very interesting time considering the political landscape. This play is perfect for our times.”

But “The Revolutionists” is just half of the hub bub. Theatre Horizon’s is marking its #WomenWhoDare, month with a unique gallery exhibit. 35 daring women from Norristown or Philadelphia will be honored with an empowering gallery exhibit.

Three area natives are among those featured in the exhibit:

Martha Settle Putney, Maria Bello and Nia Ali each hail from Norristown. Putney was an American educator and historian who chronicled the roles of African Americans in the armed forces. After serving as one of the first black members of the Women’s Army Corps during World War 2, she researched and documented the achievements of African Americans. After her discharge from the army, she entered the academic world, earning a PhD from the University of Pennsylvania.

Maria Bello isn’t just an acclaimed actress, who earned acclaim in the long-running series “E.R.” and in such films as “The Cooler” and “A History of Violence and Prisoners.” Bello is a Women’s Rights Activist. She has worked on projects in Darfur and Haiti. The openly bi-sexual mother of a 12-year old son penned the book, “Whatever...Love Is Love: Questioning the Labels We Give Ourselves.”

Nia Ali is an American track and field athlete, who formerly competed for the Tennessee Volunteers, where she was Southeastern Conference champion in the heptathlon and at USC where she was an All-American in the heptathlon.

“It’s an extraordinary group of women we’re paying tribute to,” MacMillan said. “The combination of that and a really well-constructed play makes for a great combination.”

“The Revolutionists” is on stage through Feb. 25 at Theatre Horizon, 401 DeKalb St., Norristown. Tickets are $25 for previews and $35 for regular performances. For more information, go to or call 610-283-2230