Introduction

                                                                                                                                                                                       

Inspired by Josef Bush’s 1967 play French Gray, this powerful solo show, written and performed by Elizabeth Huffman, is a dreamlike play told through film, movement and live theatre. The story follows two women whose lives have been forever altered by a tumultuous civil war. Not My Revolution travels back & forth in time between Marie Antoinette’s imprisonment during the French Revolution in 1793 and a ghetto in Istanbul in 2011 where a once wealthy Syrian art dealer is struggling to survive catastrophic losses due to the civil war in her country.

The 90-minute play examines the very real consequences of forced displacement, and the judgments passed on two women whose destiny has been determined by appearances and society’s expectations of them.

Production shots from Portland Oregon

The Story

The Displaced Woman enters the theatre with the audience. Homeless, exhausted, dressed in many layers she carries all of her possessions in a rolling cart. She is navigating through the Syrian ghetto of Istanbul looking for a safe place to sleep for the night. Finding an abandoned room in a decrepit warehouse she quietly sets up a precious space of her own, hoping to shut out the hostile world she has been thrust into by the devastating events in her country.

Unexpectedly a book appears; it is an unlikely collection of old American plays. What is it doing in Istanbul? She decides to pass the time by reading one of them, selecting French Gray by Josef Bush, written in 1967. The play within the play is about the former queen, Marie Antoinette, now in prison trying to defend her life to the unresponsive prison walls and to an equally impenetrable God as she prepares to face her death at dawn.

Was finding this play an accident? What does Marie Antoinette have to do with a Syrian refugee? Throughout the night, the two women’s stories collide, parallel each other, separate and weave a tapestry of surprises, pathos and humor. One woman’s fate is known and irrevocable. The other faces difficult choices that will determine hers. A third woman enters the picture who will challenges us all to examine the stark reality of revolution, which no one wants to face, least of all the two women.

Internationally acclaimed, powerfully moving, often funny, and provocative, Not My Revolution is a spellbinding meta-theatrical experience.

Review Quotes

“Ms. Huffman communicates the terror of a victim caught up in events beyond her control with complete conviction and verisimilitude.” –ABQ Journal

 

“Not My Revolution is an ambitious, brilliantly acted one-woman tour de force.” –Broadway World


“A must see gripping performance.” –Iris Hetcsher-Weiser Kurier, Bremen


“Captivating and moving – makes tangible the cruelty of civil war.” –Elisabeth Nofer-Taz-Bremen


“Not My Revolution shows a different and important side of the refugee experience.” –Phillipe Wellnitz, Director of Institute Francais, Bremen


“A protagonist that is complex enough to defy common templates.” –Rolf Stein-MK Krieszeitung.

 

From Page to Stage

Syrian/American actor, director, and playwright Elizabeth Huffman wrote the play in June 2016, initially to grapple with her grief and fury when the peaceful demonstrations in Syria erupted into a bloody, horrific and convoluted civil war. Refugees have seen their families and homes destroyed by weapons of destruction, politics, religious intolerance and by men who insist on playing war games with innocent people’s lives.

Looking for a way to express these feelings artistically Elizabeth randomly pulled out a collection of plays she had kept on her shelf since college, one of which contained French Gray, a one-woman show written in 1967 by Josef Bush about Marie Antoinette in prison coming to terms with her impending execution.

Re-reading the play with director and artistic colleague, Louanne Moldovan, they immediately saw the parallels and possibilities of framing the story with one that is more relevant to the current situation in Syria today. In what can only be described as divine guidance, the character of the Displaced Woman began to emerge and place herself center stage intersecting her story line with Marie’s in what has now become a successfully produced, critically acclaimed solo show.

The play has undergone quite a few transformations, as new plays do, and no doubt will continue to evolve as we begin to tour this new multi media version. Initially presented under the title, The Re-imagining of French Gray by the Displaced Woman, the script has been reworked, rewritten and re-imagined under the new title Not My Revolution.

We are ready to bring our new multi-media touring version to your theatre audiences. We would love to dialogue with them afterwards in talkbacks. Elizabeth is also open to creating an entirely new production with your own creative team. There are several versions of the script to choose from designed to suit your needs. To learn more please contact Elizabeth Huffman at www.elizabethhuffman.com to discuss what might work best for you.

A portion of every ticket sold is donated to aid Mercy Corps’ extensive humanitarian efforts for refugees worldwide (www.mercycorps.org)

   Production History

 

JANUARY  2019

Solo Festival, Bag n Baggage, Hillsboro, OR

Directed by Louanne Moldovan

MAY 2018

Fusion Theatre, Albuquerque, New Mexico

Directed by Laurie Thomas

 

FEBRUARY 2017

Title changed to Not My Revolution

 

MARCH 2017

Filmed footage of Marie Antoinette New Expressive works
Directed by Louanne Moldovan

SEPTEMBER 2017

Headwaters Theatre, Portland, Oregon

OCTOBER 2016

Internationally presented under the title

The Re-imagining of French Gray by the Displaced Woman

Theatertage Festival, Hanau, Germany (1 performance)
The Bremer Shakespeare Company’s International Play Initiative, Bremen, Germany (2 performances with talkbacks)
Directed by Louanne Moldovan

 

AUGUST 2016

Portland, Oregon
Milagro Theatre (4 performances)
A Work in Progress under the title The Re-imagining of French Gray by the Displaced Woman
Directed by Louanne Moldovan

Creative Teams

 

PORTLAND 2017

Director: Louanne Moldovan

Cinematographer/Editor: Mario Calcagno

Projection and Sound Design: Lawrence Siulagi

Lighting Design: Trevor Sargent

Set Design: Tyler Buswell

Stage Managers: Breydon Little, Jenn Lindell and Bailey Maxwell

ALBUQUERQUE, NM 2018

USA Premiere Produced by Fusion Theatre, Albuquerque,

NM Director: Laurie Thomas
Set and Lighting Design: Richard K. Hogel
Paintings: Dave Pearson

Prop design: Robyn Phillips

Sound Design: Brent Stevens

Stage Manager: Maria Stevens

 

Dramaturgical Advice:

Zeina Salame,Jamil Khoury, Fadia Afashe, Joyce Zablit


Not My Revolution was made possible by a generous donation from our patron Ronni Lacroute

and with the support of over 57 friends and family from our Indiegogo campaign

Production Shots from Fusion Theatre, New Mexico

Production shots from Bremen, Germany

Translated reviews from Germany

NOT MY REVOLUTION REVIEW # 1

(WITH THE FORMER TITLE: THE RE-IMAGINATION OF FRENCH GRAY BY THE DISPLACED WOMAN)   OCTOBER 8, 2016

KREISZTETUNG: Bremen – By Rolf Stein.

 

Elizabeth Huffman plays “The Re-Imagination of French Gray by the Displaced Woman” 

 

As Walter Benjamin once wrote: “It is never a document about art without simultaneouslybeing one about barbarism.”  He certainly did not mean only that art which denies conditions of brutality in that it hides the problems of the world behind rose-colored glasses.

 

Where ever the tear jerking appeal to human empathy may be, and while narcissistically celebrating only one’s own experience, one should dedicate oneself to the reasons for the suffering of foreigners, instead.  Brecht, on the other hand constructed his epic theater so that people should no longer have this romantic view.

 

The theme of Migration speaks for itself, especially as far as the dilemma shown on Thursday in the Theater at the Leibnitz Place by the actress Elizabeth Huffman with her English language play “The Re-Imagination of French Gray by the Displaced Woman” under the direction of Louanne Moldovan, a production of the Chain Reaction Theatre from Portland, Oregon.

 

The impetus for the piece, which is currently touring Germany, is “French Gray” by Josef Bush, written in 1967, in which the author expresses his indignation with the harsh discrepancy between rich and poor in New York.  Bush achieves the dramatic zenith through the protagonist Marie Antoinette, who invented the legendary remark “Let them eat cake”

 

The Effort to Preserve One’s Dignity

Huffman and Moldovan have adapted the Bush piece with a more current historical story where the French queen is compared to a Syrian woman, who through marriage climbs into high society, opens a gallery and enjoys life in full measure – and as a consequence of the demonstrations, the harbinger of the current civil war, she loses everything.

 

Therein reflects the circumstance that people who flee from Syria, as from elsewhere, and many give up a lot, more than few also that what might be described as Dignity: it costs our protagonist some effort to preserve this.  We get to know her as one of many, not necessarily as a refugee only. A woman with a scarf who drags her worldly belongings in a shopping cart behind her through the foyer into the theatre hall where she sits down in the front row until she finally makes her way onto the stage where she assembles random furnishings and heaps of trash into an emergency shelter.

 

Meticulously she sets up her lodging, places a photo on the provisional night table, wipes the table and chair, lights a candle – and washes herself.  An act which is know to be more than bodily hygiene, namely also an act of Self Affirmation in this threateningly existential situation.   Thus, Huffman essentially creates the foundation of her story.

 

The Nameless Syrian Woman

With a pronounced accent, she reports about the origins and circumstances of her flight, about her life before, the loss of wealth, family, and respect from society. And always weaves in the story of Marie Antoinette.  A change in lighting, a shift in the accent, more is not necessary to let the two lives correspond with each other.

 

Even though nobody here suggests that they eat cake, it is a highlight of this evening not to show the nameless Syrian solely as a victim, but as a woman, who is part of the ruling class who collectively conducted themselves with ignorance towards the needs of their subjects.  The fact that people need bread and not art must be told to our heroine by a demonstrator.

 

At the end of the play she will have gotten off her high, white horse.  However, it is nevertheless striking how distant this figure remains.  Precisely because the West offers agreeable conditions to refugees: education, employment, freedom of religion contrasted with the not too olden days of just shopping excursions to the West.  Because she used to be part of this barbarism in days gone by, she finally now becomes a victim of it. But, in the end and throughout, she continues to strive through her struggle.

 

Thus Huffman and Moldovan show a protagonist who is complex enough to escape the usual stereotype.

 

Translated by Hap Sermol

Edited by Dorothy Sermol

Edited by Luisa Sermol

Nov 10, 2016

NOT MY REVOLUTION REVIEW # 2

(WITH THE FORMER TITLE: THE RE-IMAGINATION OF FRENCH GRAY BY THE DISPLACED WOMAN)

Review 3 OCTOBER 8, 2016

 

The American actress Elizabeth Huffman portraying between the frontlines of two women

What gives meaning to life and dignity

Iris Hetscher 08/10/2016

 

Bremen. The cardboard sign on the door is totally uninviting. "Refugees not wanted" someone has written with black grease pencil on it. But the unnamed Syrian woman tears down the sign.  She opens the door and goes through it, because she needs a place where she can stay.  It is not very home like here in this basement room, somewhere in Istanbul. But the woman has no choice. She rolls her sleeping bag, sets the table and a chair on their feet, grabs her thermos, lights a candle, and ignoring the garbage, begins to tell her story.

 

The American actress and author Elizabeth Huffman has slipped into the role of this woman whose name you do not learn during this hour and a half, must-see solo guest performance in the Bremer Shakespeare Company. This is no coincidence; because this woman is representative of many who escaped from Syria in "The Re-imagining of French Gray by the Displaced Woman". The title of the piece suggests the story is convoluted but fortunately that does not happen in the performance. Elizabeth Huffman was inspired by the 1967 written piece "French Gray". In Josef Bush's piece the French queen Marie Antoinette muses (1755-1793) in the prison contemplating her life - complacent, at times uncertain, at times sad.

 

Huffman has further developed the piece for the year 2016, the director Louanne Moldovan has set the stage: In an abandoned Turkish basement the Syrian refugee woman finds the original text and begins to read about Marie Antoinette, and soon the lives of two women intermingle. Both are victims of revolutions in their own way: Marie Antoinette's time as queen (and four years later her life) was over when the French Revolution in 1789 concluded the rule of the aristocrats. The Syrian Woman, invented by Elizabeth Huffman is homeless because of randomly being in the turmoil of protests against dictator Bashar al-Assad – Life was very good; her husband was rich, and they belonged to the upper class. The demonstrations she feels are a disruptive exercise on the way to the shopping center. But then her husband gets accidentally caught in the crossfire and is killed, and his father happily takes the opportunity to throw out his unloved daughter in law out of the house and thus out of the country.

 

Huffman makes the portrait of this woman being uprooted so suddenly, a gripping character study.  It takes a long time until the Syrian woman is clear that she does not have it better than any other refugees. And that she might have made better use of her time paying attention to the social conditions and political crimes in Syria instead of being blindfolded in a self-defined Wonderland.  Huffman transforms her at these moments of insight - supported by precision-fit sound and light effects (Lawrence Siulagi, Jeff Forbes) - As Marie Antoinette, who speaks with a French accent English, Huffman dances to Menuettklängen through the room while being outraged at how dirty their subjects appear; a little more grace despite famine would surely be there, right? At the same time she suffers, always known as "the Austrian woman" she was unloved by the people, mistrusted by the French nobles. And what could she really have become of her if her life had not ended by other’s misdirection?

 

The Syrian woman by the end finally has understood that she must "Do something worthy with your life!" (Spoken to her briefly before fleeing by a politically active student)  It is still not too late for her like it is for Marie. There is a diamond necklace, once she vowed not to sell, but now with which one could finance a school in a refugee camp.

 

"The Re-imagining of French Gray by the Displaced Woman" is on this Saturday, 19.30, to see again in the Shakespeare Company.

Translated by Hap Sermol

Edited by Dorothy Sermol

Edited by Luisa Sermol

Nov 10, 2016