A Philadelphia theater company announced a new play they plan to debut in August… a musical comedy about abortion featuring an “irate gun-toting fetus running around and shouting about how it would kill anyone who tried to hurt it.”
Philadelphia Magazine said that they normally get a press release from a local theater company about their latest work, the press release includes things like, you know, the name of the play, and an interesting base of theatrical expression.
But Philly theater company Lightning Rod Special bucked that trend last week when they sent them a notice announcing its musical comedy was about abortion, which debuts in August at the Painted Bride.
From Philadelphia Magazine:
The abortion musical has its roots at the Pig Iron School for Advanced Performance Training, where [co-creator Alice] Yorke and the co-creators studied. Yorke says it was there that she developed a character of an “irate gun-toting fetus running around and shouting about how it would kill anyone who tried to hurt it.”
In those early days, there was also a Busby Berkeley-inspired song-and-dance kick-line of fetuses, though Yorke isn’t sure that it will be included in the final version.
Yorke tried to explain to the magazine that the musical is not “pro-choice propaganda”:
“We’re definitely, as makers, on one side,” Yorke admits. “But we’re trying to ride a funny line. This isn’t self-congratulatory. I want us to examine why we feel this way. I want people to reckon with themselves. This is a show about personhood, the right to bodily autonomy, and the violence of the partisan politics that surrounds this issue.”
She told the magazine that the group was having a hard time raising funds for musical and cried that “good, liberal foundations” turned their requests down and that everyone “is just so, so afraid to talk about abortion.”
Or maybe everyone knows that abortion is not an issue that you can attach humor to without expecting backlash.
The group is still trying to determine a good name:
“We were going with ‘Fetus Chorus,’” explains co-creator Alice Yorke. “But there were a lot of mixed feelings about it. The best comment we got was, ‘I understand you want to provoke your audience, but do you want to do that in the theater or before they even get there?’”
Yorke, a 31-year-old South Philadelphia resident, tells Philly Mag that the company is currently debating other titles. Her favorite is “The A Word.” Others in the mix: “Baby Girl,” “Mine,” “Monster,” and “Wanted.”Co-creators Scott Sheppard and Jenson Titus Lavallee
Co-creator Scott Sheppard assured readers that the group that the company had actually pulled back a bit on the politics in the abortion musical.
“We don’t wanna serve up this didactic play that pats liberals on the back,” insists Sheppard, 33, also of South Philadelphia. “Abortion is hard. One one side, you have people who think that murder is happening. On the other side, it’s people thinking about women’s health. This is already a terribly divided debate. We didn’t want to just add heat to that fire.”
Lightning Rod Special’s most recent play was the runaway FringeArts Festival hit Underground Railroad Game, which went on to win the prestigious Obie award for best new American theater work in May. But the success of that show hasn’t made it any easier for them to raise money for this new work. It turns out that funding a musical comedy about abortion is even harder than naming it.
“We were basically rejected for every grant that we applied for,” says Yorke, adding later that the company did score a small amount of funding from the Wyncote Foundation and two other groups. “Even good, liberal granting foundations. Everybody is just so, so afraid to talk about abortion.”
Kathy Griffin’s schedule is light these days, maybe they can cast her in the starting role.