WOMEN held the reins of several productions at a divisive time in the arts. And some performances come at just the right time.

One Monday recent, the French author Virginie Despentes was greeted with a roar when she stepped onstage at the Theatre Robino for ''Viril,'' a performance that was part rock concert, part feminist monologues.

After Roman Polanski's triumph three days earlier the Cesar Awards, France equivalent of the Oscars, Despentes had just published a a furious opinion piece in the French newspaper Liberation -under the headline ''From Now on, We Get up and We Leave - and the youthful crowd was clearly on her side.

The contrast with the chill that had descended during the Cesar's ceremony spoke to a deep rift in the French arts world.

Led by Adene Haenel, a handful of actors and directors walked out after Polanski, who has been accused of sexual assaults by multiple women, was named best director, was named best director. [Polanski denies the accusations].

In her piece, Despentes pointed the finger at French cinema's disregard for gender inequality, writing that ''the real message is: Nothing must change.''

French theater, which shares many artists with the film industry, has some of the same problems.

Yet audiences can vote with their wallets. Alongside ''Viril,'' which was presented for one night only as part of the ''Paroles Citoyennes'' festival, a number of female-led productions are currently among the best nights out in Paris, and bring diverse characters - mythical, historical and contemporary - to the lore.

Take away the period setting and some scenes from Catherine Anne's ''I Dreamed the Revolution'' ['' J'ai Reve la Revolution''] could easily belong in the collection of feminists text in ''Viril'.'

Performed at the Theatre de L'Epee de Bois, the play was inspired by the 18th century writer Olympe de Gouges, whose political pamphlets were influential during the French Revolution and who advocated for women's rights.

Anne - who wrote the text, co-directed with Francoise Fouquet and plays the role of Gouges - focuses on the activist's final months.

Gouges was arrested in 1793, at the time of the Terror that followed the Revolution, and sentenced to the guillotine.

Many former revolutionaries lost their lives along with Gouges because of political disagreements with the new regime and ''I Dreamed the Revolution'' explores that bloody period.

In the play, the mother of the young guard tasked tasked with watching Gouges become fascinated with her, and covertly gives her a key to escape.

Anne captures the openhearted, infectious confidence in justice that leads Gouges to refuse the offer.

Opposite her, the guard [Pol Tronco], who who childishly believes his superiors, and his illiterate mother [Luce Mouchel] grapple with moral dilemmas about political loyalty and women's role in social movements, in scenes that take place almost entirely in the family's home and in Gouges's cell, divided only by a screen onstage.

A final, didactic excursion into the present - featuring two contemporary characters who tell us about Gouges's importance - feels forced, but the rest of ''I dreamed the Revolution'' is sharply written and to the point.

The honor and serving of the latest reviews in Arts and Theater, continues. the World Students Society thanks author, Laura Cappelle. 


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