The Old Queen: A new take on Marie Antoinette

You’re handed your program for The Old Queen and enter PW’s Upspace to find Anna Muselmann ’14 facing away from you seated on a crate. Her hands rest gracefully on her knees. A small potted flower and a pair of green worker’s rain boots rest on either side of her. The room is quiet and peaceful. But as the lights dim, this solid and calm image turns into a dark and haunted glimpse into the imprisoned power Muselmann and director Ari Rodriguez ’13 have captured together.

This summer, Rodriguez saw an experimental movement piece The Old King, directed by Miquel Moreira and performed primarily by Romeu Runa. He returned to Brown in hopes of creating an adaptation or, rather, a homage to this foreign piece. Rodriguez joined forces with Muselmann in mid-October, and the two worked to transform this tale of the king to the story of the French queen Marie Antoinette.

The Old Queen is an experimental movement piece for the senses. Muselmann uses her body to capture the pressure and suppression of being imprisoned. Through partially improvised movements, Muselmann takes the audience through an abstract character study. Muselmann moves stoically through pain as she spends most of the piece alone only to be visited by her prison guard, who is played by Rodriguez. Blending the elements, Rodriguez does a wonderful job of creating a visually stunning environment. Mixing light, water, dirt, and the open spaces inbetween, Rodriguez helps Muselmann place immense tension in the smallest movements. Similarly, lighting designer Ben Chesler ’15, sound designer Ursula Raasted ’14, and costume designer Corina Chase ’13 have all entered seamlessly into the complex and theoretical world of The Old Queen.

“Peace is not the absence of but the acceptance of internal tension,” Rodriguez remarked after a performance. To Rodriguez, the show experiments with the division and transition between being powerful and powerless. Rodriguez explains that fighting this internal tension is what leads to self-destruction – one very similar to Marie Antoinette’s. However, when asked what the message of this piece was, Rodriguez had no concrete answer. An experienced actor and director, Rodriguez admits that letting go of control is a frightening thing particularly for such dark subject matter. However, after a moment, Rodriguez responded, “This [show] tells you what it is. It talks directly to the audience. That is what theater does… You just watched it talk.” The Old Queen is not by any means a conventional piece of theater, but it does give the audience much to consider and contemplate.

Disclaimer: This show contains nudity and possible water splashes, so be sure to come with an open mind and some Hunter boots. It’s being performed in PW’s Upspace this Thursday (tonight) through Saturday at 8 p.m. with an additional 2 p.m matinee on Saturday. Check out the Facebook event for more details.

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