Tell me about where the idea for this adaption came from?
The idea was born when director Andrew Smith asked me whether I’d like to write a Three Musketeers in which all the Musketeers were women. I jumped on the opportunity – who wouldn’t? Andrew and Michole at Project Y told me I was free to go anywhere in history I’d like, and that I didn’t have to stick to Dumas’ story. I’d already spent a lot of time thinking about Dumas’ characters, so I gravitated to what felt non-negotiable about the Musketeers: they fight, physically, for a morally pure cause. So, under what conditions would a group of women engage in physical combat as a regular part of their daily lives? That question led me to the French Resistance, which my research disclosed to be a surprisingly female-dominant movement. Many, many French men at the time were either in the military, prisoners of war, or hiding in the mountains from the German labor draft. Women and girls were doing a great deal of the work that kept French society going, including Resistance work. It’s been a great pleasure, at this moment in U.S. history, to spend time absorbing the stories and examples of World War II Resistance workers.
Why Dumas and how does reshaping this through a feminist lens support or challenge the original story?
It challenges the original story in practically every way – which is fabulous fun! Alexandre Dumas was a man of his time, writing about a time that was 200 years earlier than his own life span. Neither era was terribly well known for its gender parity. But he created characters who live in our hearts even now. Those characters can travel anywhere in history, can morph into any gender and any ethnicity (remember, Dumas himself was black!) but they have to remain fundamentally themselves: d’Artagnan as the immensely gifted, terribly naïve newcomer who has everything to learn; Athos as the moral center of the group with a heart being slowly eaten away by a secret; Aramis as the true believer who has a vision for the future; Porthos as the creative genius who is coming from behind, economically speaking. Even Richelieu, who is so overpowered by his own ambition that he cannot see he will never get what he wants; his right-hand man Rochefort; and Milady, the terrifyingly amoral double agent who works for Richelieu (… or does she/) Those characters are at the heart of Three Musketeers: 1941, but Dumas’ story is only present as “Easter eggs” for those who know Dumas’ books well. Most of my plot, especially the second act, comes from historical research into the French Resistance. The Musketeers in this play undertake three adventures of increasing difficulty and danger, the greatest of which directly reflects real work done by a real Resistance cell; the details are changed but the action is true to the original.
This is my second project with Andrew Smith, and my first (but hopefully, not my last!) with Michole Biancosino. I’ve admired the work of Project Y for a while now, so it’s a real honor to get to work with them on the Women in Theatre Festival. The cast and creative team include a number of women who are my former and current students – it’s a great pleasure to engage with them professionally, and I suspect I’m going to brag about having “known them when” someday. Project Y cast the play with incredible care and attention, which has introduced me to a number of actors whom I hope to work with again (and again and again…) I was with them in rehearsal for the first week. The whole group offered tremendous support and creative input to my revisions of the script, so that when I had to leave for another gig, I knew the play was in great hands. I’ll be back with them for previews and opening – you can imagine how much I’m looking forward to seeing what they’ve made.
What’s the impossible thing you would make if there were no limitations?
What a glorious question! I would make a piece where people fly – really fly, not the old-school Peter Pan “Flying by Foy” wire work. I read recently that many young people dream of flying, but that most folks outgrow those dreams as they age. I never have. I dream of flying all the time.
Make lots of work, with lots of different people. At the beginning of your career your task is to make many things as well as you can, and to avoid getting hung up on making one thing perfectly. A. It will never be perfect, and B. You will get more traction out of pursuing quantity during the early days. The first step of my career after grad school involved being a member of two wildly different theatre companies simultaneously. If I could go back and do it all again, I’d double or triple that number. But I’m very happy with how things have turned out so far, and I’m looking forward to the next bend in the road. (I’d also assure my younger self that she would, sooner than later, make it out of Texas.)
PROJECT Y THEATRE COMPANY
4TH ANNUAL WOMEN IN THEATRE FESTIVAL
JUNE 5-30 @ A.R.T./NEW YORK THEATRES
The Women in Theatre Festival seeks to broaden the opportunities for women in the entertainment industry by producing new work by women with more than 50% female representation of all artists involved. The 4th Annual Women in Theatre Festival will feature 12 separate productions including two fully staged World Premieres, commissioned specifically for the festival.
THREE MUSKETEERS: 1941
A commissioned World Premiere by Megan Monaghan Rivas
Co-Directed by Michole Biancosino and Andrew W. Smith
June 5, 6, 8, 14, 15, 21, 25, 27, 28, 29 at 7:30pm
June 8, 9, 16 at 2pm
Inspired by characters from Alexandre Dumas classic adventure novel, this new play is set in the occupied Paris of World War II. The Third Reich has hung every balcony in the City of Light with swastika banners and filled the streets with the tramp of goose-stepping boots. While the French police pander to Nazi occupiers, in a secret room five brave women struggle to keep hope alive for themselves and their fellow citizens. The arrival of two strangers sets off a chain of events that might just turn the tide in this thriller about what happens when a group of women take up the chant, All for one, and one for all!
Featuring: Essence Stiggers, Joleen Wilkinson, Helen Farmer, Christina Liang, Ashley Bufkin, Zack Calhoon, Valentino Musumeci, Javan Nelson, Kate Margalite, and Ella Dershowitz.