Tag Archives: choice

March 20: The Reproductive Freedom Festival

by Laura Shamas

“In our age there is no such thing as ‘keeping out of politics.’ All issues are political issues….”― George Orwell, Why I Write

This election year, I’m concerned about the erosion of women’s rights on a number of fronts; that’s why I’m participating as a playwright in the Reproductive Freedom Festival on March 20, 2016. Featuring 25 short plays and poems, the event will stream live from New York’s TACT Studio this Sunday from 6-9 p.m. EDT/ 3-6 p.m. PDT via Virtual Arts TV.

As described on the RFF site, it’s: “a festival of short works celebrating the fundamental right to human reproductive autonomy.” Created and produced by Choice Theater (run by the amazing Cindy Cooper), its stated purpose is “to support reproductive freedom, rights, health and justice and to generate new conversations on these subjects.”

It has six parts, guided by six female directors. Here are the format details: “Half-hour sets, each completely different, of short theatrical works and poetry collected from across the country and presented by talented New York actors under the guidance of six directors. Artists and activists will describe their works every half hour.”

Each grouping has a theme: 1) Heroines; 2) Next Generations; 3) Conflicts; 4) Body Politics; 5) Discoveries; and 6) What We Know. There’s also a “Pre-Show” from Ireland at 5:30 p.m. EDT/ 2:30 p.m. PDT. You can watch just some of the festival or all of it—and it’s free.

I have a short comic piece in it called “Papyrus” about the discovery of an ancient scroll; it’s scheduled in the fifth half hour. Other LA FPI writers participating in the festival are Allie Costa, with her work “Two Girls” (in the second half hour), and Mildred Lewis, with her play “Chained Labor” (in the fourth half hour). For a complete performance schedule, with the writers and directors listed, please click here.

Costa’s piece, “Two Girls,” is a haunting, poetic duologue in which two women emerge from a violent attack. The play was first performed in London in 2015 at the Unheard Festival, produced by Goblin Baby Theatre Co. at The Bread & Roses Theatre. It has also been presented at the Clear Lines Festival and the Keble Arts Festival in London. This will be the first time “Two Girls” has been performed in the United States. Costa’s play “She Has Seen The Wolf,” which is thematically linked to “Two Girls,” just had its first staged reading this week in Hollywood at PlayGround-LA. Costa is a Los Angeles-based actress, writer, director, and singer working in film, TV, theatre, and voiceover.

Costa, when asked about why she’s part of the festival, observed: “Victims of sexual assault often have questions posed at them – ‘What were you wearing? Why were you out late at night?’ – that are tinged with shame and blame. We need to stop blaming victims and start listening to them, and give them a safe place to speak up and speak out. I am honored that my piece was selected for this festival, and I can’t wait to see it!”

In Mildred Lewis’ piece, “Chained Labor,” an African American woman reveals to her daughter that she gave birth to her in chains while she was incarcerated. Lewis notes: “That experience sadly continues. Facing the reproductive freedom issues that women face in jails (e.g., forced sterilization) demonstrates how urgently the conversation around reproductive freedom needs to broaden. It’s not just about abortion or birth control.”

Lewis is excited that “Chained Labor” will premiere at the RFF. “I can’t think of a better platform, particularly since it’s being filmed in my hometown (Go Stuy Hi Peglegs!) I’m also grateful that it follows a run of my piece, “Bleed Black Bleed Blue,” at the Secret Theatre’s Act One Festival.” Explaining why she’s participating in the festival, Lewis responds: “I am a beneficiary of the women’s movement. I had access to great sex education from my mom, an RN, and my junior high school. Watching old battles being fought again over not just abortion, but birth control(!) is maddening. Sometimes I write purely to entertain. But there are some points in history where I believe we must pick up our pens to fight. This is one of them.” Lewis writes and directs for theater, film, television and the web; she is also a full-time film professor.

The Reproductive Freedom Festival is officially part of SWAN Day, Women Arts’ famous international celebration which aims to “Support Women Artists Now.”

RFF will send you a reminder notice to watch the performance online on March 20, if you’d like. You can catch the livestream and sign up for the reminder notice here. There will be a live chat function during the Festival, for online users. Please join us on Sunday, March 20, for a look at some female-centric plays and poems about reproductive freedom (and more!), and let’s continue the conversation.

At work, my first cup of tea had the teabag wisdom words from Goethe

“Choose well, your choice is brief and yet endless.”

Teabag wisdom comes from the little square piece of paper at the tip of the string holding together the tea leaves found with most Celestial Seasoning brand.  I thought the quote profound.  The theme had been cropping up these past months in different aspects of my life… Well, life abounds with choices, so maybe not so profound afterall.

Onwards with my day.  I bring up the news and use the headlines to poke my imagination awake. What’s happening in my world? Further along I plant the question how some stories fit into the theme and layers of my play.

The creative sources are abundant:

• the headlines of your favourite online or printed news cast
• a snippet of a conversation you couldn’t help overhear
• a momentary image you witnessed on your way to someplace or while sitting somewhere suspended in time
• an incident with someone close to you that incites something deeply buried in your nerves

BP’s “Deepwater Horizon” blowout from 5 weeks ago has been prominent in the headlines.  Today the company is attempting a Top Kill to choke off the oil spill.  Other headliners today included Hillary Clinton’s reaction to another provocation by North Korea accused of sinking a South Korean submarine.  And there was a short piece about  a US Activist, Lori Benson, who was released on parole after spending 14 years in a Peruvian jail.

What is important to me?

There are months, weeks, days and moments when I don’t want my world to be so vast. I can imagine myself to be content to be in my living room, drinking wine and listening to my favorite music and nothing more, except for the simple companionship of my dog.   It’s not easy to be removed from the outside world for very long.

A walk one block from my apartment and there is a homeless guy resting on the side of the church building. He’s invisible to the people attending the gatherings there.  My mind moves on, and wander to asking why it’s only the US government wagging its finger at BP for the oil spill.  Are my news sources limited?  Where is the real source of good objective news reporting? This oil spill is a global mess. We share this big ocean and shouldn’t we all do something, a little something?  A sense of powerlessness tinges my outlook.

I’ve got things to do, and it’s a goddamn long list:   a functional design spec due, meeting with users and the developers; a status update to my manager… It’s almost lunch.  I hanker for sushi… haven’t had it in a while.  The Gulf of Mexico is a spawning ground for the critically endangered bluefin tuna. I’m going to New Orleans in mid June, and I’m looking forward to the seafood feast.  Meanwhile, the shrimp farmers have already noticed the effects of the spill in their industry. I should go for a walk during lunch; get fresh air and exercise. Or I can hole up in the non-descript cafe down the street and bury my head in a book.

My mind, cluttered with thoughts fighting for a slice of time and attention, distracts me from a purpose (which is now a blur) , and I feel exhausted.  My precious time and energy had bee dissipated away into churning thoughts and worry.  I have 10 minutes left of my lunch so I pick up my book:  The 2nd section in on Love.  The topic is: “Love is Disciplined”. (Source: The Road Less Traveled: A New Psychology of Love, Traditional Values and Spiritual Growth (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1978)

“Because genuine love involves an extension of oneself, vast amounts of energy is as limited as the hours of our day. We simply cannot love everyone. True, we may have a feeling of love for mankind, and this feeling may also be useful in providing us with enough energy to manifest genuine love for a few specific individuals. But genuine love for a relatively few individuals is all that is within our power. To attempt to exceed the limits of our energy to offer more than we can deliver, and there is a point of no return beyond which an attempt to love all comers become fraudulent and harmful to the very ones we desire to assists. Consequently if we are fortunate enough to be in a position in which many people ask for our attention, we must choose those among them whom we are actually to love. This choice is not easy; it maybe excruciatingly painful, as the assumption of godlike power so often is. But it must be made. Many factors need to be considered, primarily the capacity of the prospective recipient of our love to respond to that love with spiritual growth.”

Every story is about love is what my writing mentor tells his students.

I am curious about the choices of my protagonist and the antagonist of my story in their blind quest to get what they want in the face of adversities. The dangers they face in their journeys faced with the choices with their limited and unlimited capacities for love.

Choices galore. I think I understand what “choice is brief” means.  I am walking on this planet in blip of time, and my characters have an even shorter lifetime – less than 2 hours.  I’m sure someone, one day, will write into their story about the Deepwater Horizon Blowout and how it affected somebody – maybe somebody who asked “What’s a bluefin tuna?”