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Reproductive Freedom Festival

REPRODUCTIVE FREEDOM FESTIVAL PLAYS

30 writers share short original works recognizing and celebrating reproductive freedom, health, rights and justice, including comedic and dramatic plays, as well as poetry, spoken word, lyrics and essays, divided into sections on: Heroines, Next Generations, Conflicts, Body Politics, Discoveries, and What We Know, plus special sections on Ireland and song lyrics.

The Reproductive Freedom Festival offers 30 short theatrical works that recognize and celebrate the fundamental human right to bodily autonomy. This rich collection of works, each approximately five minutes long, explores reproductive rights, health and justice, aiming to generate new conversations about these important topics.

The plays are divided into six general sections: Heroines; Next Generations; Conflicts; Body Politics; Discoveries; and What We Know, with two special sections – one on Ireland, another of song lyrics.  They include monologues and dialogue-driven work, spoken word, poems and lyrics, both comedic and dramatic. Plays may be performed individually or in groups tailored by the performer.

Reproductive freedom touches upon topics related to reproductive healthcare, sex, sexuality, birthing, parenting, gender roles, abortion, contraception, and more, as well as the drive toward recognition of equality for all. Reproductive freedom is an expression of the universal values of bodily autonomy and self-determination. It represents the individual’s right to be free from government intrusion, as well as from outside force, danger or judgment on matters of reproductive decision-making.

At a time where our reproductive freedoms are being challenged and stigmatized, these selections raise the voices of talented theater artists and open new doors to the important role of culture in bringing vibrant stories to the public about human rights and social justice.

The Reproductive Freedom Festival was produced by Words of Choice and curated by Cindy Cooper with Stacey Linnartz serving as artistic consultant and coordinator.

Bios of the contributors:

Dr. Grisel Y. Acosta is a writer from Chicago and is currently an assistant professor at Bronx Community College—City University of New York. Her creative work is in Nineteen Sixty Nine: An Ethnic Studies Journal, MiPoesias, Pembroke Magazine, Private International Photo Review, the NAACP Image Award nominated Check the Rhyme, Chicago’s After Hours Magazine, Love You Madly, and the forthcoming Basta!: 100 Latinas Write on Violence Against Women. 

Judith Arcana is a writer and a Jane, a member of Chicago’s pre-Roe underground abortion service.  She’s written about abortion and other motherhood themes for many years – read What if your mother (poetry collection); Keesha and Joanie and JANE (fiction zine); and Soon To Be A Major Motion Picture (fiction chapbook) + more stories, poems and essays in journals, anthologies and newspapers.  See juditharcana.com for links.

Marcy Arlin is Artistic Director of the OBIE-winning Immigrants' Theatre Project, directing/producing over 200 plays. Member: Brooklyn Speculative Fiction Writers, Broad Universe, Theatre Without Borders, No Passport, LPTW, Lincoln Center Directors Lab. She studied fiction with award-winning authors Chris McKitterick, Andy Duncan, Kij Johnson, Betsy James, Jill Dearman. Published science fiction in Daily Science Fiction, PerihelionSF.com, others, as well as articles in Czech Plays: 7 New Works (editor) and TCGcircle. Marcy has taught theatre at Yale, Brown, CUNY, U. of Chicago (her alma mater), and Pace. She is a Fulbright scholar to Romania and the Czech Republic.  

Melissa Bell’s plays and librettos have been presented at the Triad, Snapple Theatre, TheatreLab, and the Bechdel Group’s 24-hour challenge. Librettos: Off-Broadway: Devil & The Deep, Reimagining Treasure Island. Music/Lyrics: Graham Russell (Air Supply) & Katie McGhie, Theatre East. Lost In Love, Triad Theater, featuring Constantine Maroulis and Andrea McArdle.Plays: Love, Sex, Anarchy, Corner Store Arts Center, excerpts at National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington DC. 29th Street Playwrights Collective Member. WorksbyWomen.org.

Angela Bonavoglia is the author of Good Catholic Girls: How Women Are Leading the Fight to Change the Church, and the classic oral history, The Choices We Made: 25 Women and Men Speak Out About Abortion. She has also written for Ms. (former contributing editor), the Chicago Tribune, The Nation, Salon, RH Reality Check, Religion Dispatches, Women’s Media Center, and the Huffington Post, among other venues.

Stephen Cedars is an award-winning writer, director and teacher originally from south Louisiana.  In addition to producing or creating work throughout New York City, he has had plays published and produced throughout the country.  Amongst his awards are the Theater Masters Visionary Playwright Award, a Fellowship with Target Margin, a Residency with America-in-Play, and the John Golden Playwriting Prize.  He earned his MFA in Dramatic Writing from NYU, which he attended as a Rita and Burton Goldberg Fellow.

Kitty Chen is an autodidact and a multiple award-winning playwright (NEA, 2 NYFAs, among others). She has been working in the theater since 1975, first as a modern dancer, now as actor and playwright.  Born in Shanghai, China, and raised near Philadelphia, she got a BA in math from Brown and fled science and academia for New York and a life in the arts.

Ellen Cohen, Midwife, delivered 1,400 babies in New York City hospitals as well as provided contraceptive care to her patients, who included low-paid workers, immigrants, teenagers and women with mental or physical disabilities. She participated in research that led to the first breakthrough in preventing mother-to-child transmission of HIV. She authored Laboring: Stories of a New York City Hospital Midwife, from which her piece in this show is adapted.

Cindy Cooper is an award-winning playwright and journalist. Her play, How She Played the Game, was performed off-Broadway at The Women’s Project and later at Primary Stages, and has been performed in 100 other venues.  Strange Light was produced at Wings in NY, Bailiwick in Chicago, Philadelphia and Buffalo. Silence Not, A Love Story premiered in Jerusalem and a published version won a prize for historic fiction. Her play, Sor Juana, for young audiences is published by Indie Theater Now; other plays are published in 16 volumes. She is the founder and producer of Words of Choice, which mounted the Reproductive Freedom Festival and has toured a theater performance in support of reproductive freedom and rights for 15 years, winning awards from NARAL Pro-Choice America and the Abortion Conversation Project, RI. She is a two-time Jerome Fellow and lives in New York City.

Allie Costa works in film, TV, theatre, and voiceover as an actor, screenwriter, playwright, director, and singer. Her acting credits include Spring Awakening, 90210, Hamlet, and You Me & Her. Her plays have been produced internationally, including Femme Noir, How I Knew Her, A Taste of the Future, and Can You Keep a Secret? A gender-neutral version of Two Girls entitled TWO is also available for performance and licensing; please contact Allie directly for more information.allie@alliecosta.com  http://www.alliecosta.com

Marjorie Duffield is a playwright and librettist. Theater: Ice Island: The Wait For Shackelton (off-Broadway); Sit-In at the Five & Dime, music by Janice Lowe (New Harmony Project, Voice & Vision, Dixon Place); In A Lake Of Fire, music by Greg Pliska (Winner, Moss Hart Award and Finalist, Richard Rodgers Awards); Cyber-Alice, music by Sunmee Cho (Lincoln Center Directors Lab at HERE). She is a recipient of the Jonathan Larson Memorial Musical Theatre Fellowship. The selections here are from TIT-Tales, a body politics cabaretwith music by Greg Pliska whose has also composed for Sylvia (Broadway); Comedy of Errors, As You Like It (co-composer with Steve Martin), Twelfth Night (arranger) and more. TIT-TALEs premiered at the WOW Café Theater in New York City in 1996 and was later produced at Williams College; songs and selections have been included in many social justice events.

Jessica Feder-Birnbaum has written for stage and screen. A reading of her musical, Margaret Sanger - A Woman Rebel, was held at the Richmond Shepard Theatre. She directs multi-generational theatre pieces. Her articles and prose pieces have appeared in print and on-line. She is an MFTA Summer Institute scholarship recipient (New York State Council on the Arts).

Anne Flanagan is a writer/actor/teacher/and entrepreneur. She's also worked as a private investigator, which was not nearly as exciting as one might think.  Her plays have been produced throughout the US and internationally.  Publications include Artifice (Dramatic Publishing), Best Women's Monologues 2013 (Smith and Kraus) and Best Contemporary Monologues 2014 (Applause) among others.  Anne is the recipient of several writing awards and absolutely no sports trophies.  Website: http://anneflanagan.net

Nicole Goodwin is the 2013-2014 Queer Art Mentorship Queer Art Literary Fellow, as well as the winner of The Fresh Fruit Festival’s 2013 Award for Performance Poetry. She is also the finalist for the Poet House 2013 Poet House Emerging Poets Fellowship Program. Recently, she published the articles “Talking with My Daughter…” and “Why is this Happening in Your Life…” (Personal essay/Review for award-winning documentary Tough Love) in the New York Times’ parentblog Motherlode.  Additionally, her work "Desert Flowers" was shortlisted and selected for performance by the Women Playwriting International Conference this summer in Cape Town, South Africa.

Yvette Heyliger is an award-winning playwright, a director and a producing artist.  She is the recipient of the AUDELCO Recognition Award for Excellence in Black Theatre’s August Wilson Playwright Award and a Best Playwright nomination from the NAACP’s Annual Theatre Awards, to name a few.  A partner in Twinbiz™, she is the co-recipient of the first National Black Theatre Festival Emerging Producer Award.  After many years on the other side of the footlights, Yvette returned to the stage in her first one-woman show, Bridge to Baraka.  Yvette’s plays have been published on line by indietheaternow.com and stagereads.com.  She is a contributing author to two collections of plays, 24 Gun Control Plays and WE ARE THEATRE, as well as a collection of poetry, No Limits.  Her work was selected for Best Women’s Stage Monologues 2003 and Best Stage Scenes 2003.  Yvette has written articles and blogs for The Dramatist, Black Masks, Continuum, and HowlRound.  The author of Autobiography of a Homegirl, she will soon release a collection of plays, What a Piece of Work is Man! Full-Length Plays for Leading Women.  Yvette is a proud member of the Dramatist Guild, AEA, SDC, and SAG-AFTRA.  http://www.twinbiz.com/yvette_res.html 

The home|work Collective and The Renunciation, included in the Reproductive Freedom Festival, emerged from research and development undertaken by artist Siobhán Clancy (www.siobhanclancy.com) with activist members of the Abortion Rights Campaign in Ireland (www.abortionrights.ie). It was funded under The Arts Council Artist in the Community Scheme managed by Create (The National Development Agency for Collaborative Arts) in Ireland with mentorship by performance artist Áine Phillips. Special thanks to A4 Sounds Studio, Dublin, Ireland. To date, The Renunciation has been performed in Bangkok, Belfast, Berlin, Cork, Dublin, Galway, London, Limerick, Maynooth and New York.  www.homeworkcollective.tumblr.com

Henry Howard is a Los Angeles poet and fiction writer, who works in the genre of human rights literature. He writes: “The struggle for full, unrestricted reproductive rights is deeply personal to me, and I have been a national and local clinic defender since 1988. Forced motherhood is female enslavement, and if half the world is not free, none of us are free! Abortion on demand, and without apology!”

Michael angel Johnson: The Price of Solitude was a finalist in the National Ten-Minute Play Contest at Actors Theatre of Louisville. The Apartment earned her the honor of special participant at the O’Neill Theatre Center. The author of “The African American Woman Who Shaped the Future of Art” (On The Issues Magazine), Michael is a member of The League of Professional Theatre Woman and New York Women in Film & Television. She is a graduate of The Yale School of Drama.

Mildred Lewis: After Oberlin College, Mildred began as a director at the Actors Studio and Circle Repertory’s LAB. After graduating from UCLA’s film school, she won Samuel Goldwyn and HBO New Writers Awards. Unbowed, a feature based on her work, screened at the Palm Springs, American Indian and Pan African Film Festivals. Her plays have been produced in Chicago, Cincinnati, London, New York and Spokane. She teaches English at Chapman University and has won several teaching awards.

Samantha Lierens is from London, UK.  She writes: “I'm a new playwright and I'm passionate about women's rights so it's been wonderful to combine these two loves for the Reproductive Freedom Festival.  I have an MA in creative writing and a degree in politics.  I've published four erotic books under a pseudonym and I am currently working on a young adult romance novel and a stage play about the 1970 protests against Miss World.  The story of ‘Savita,' presented in the Reproductive Freedom Festival, still shocks me in that a young woman could be so comprehensibly failed by the system - and yet still nothing has changed.”    

Jessica Litwak, Ph.D., is a theatre artist focused on theatre for social change. She is a playwright, actor, educator, drama therapist and the Director of The H.E.A.T. Collective. She is a Fulbright Specialist Scholar. Her work has been published by No Passport Press, TCG, Applause Books, Smith and Kraus, The New York Times, and produced Off-Broadway and on international stages. As an actress, she’s appeared in film, television and theatres across the U.S. Her play in the Reproductive Freedom Festival, Terrible Virtue, was originally developed at The Lark Theatre with director Daniella Topol. Litwak did undercover research in the field with Americans United For Life and Operation Rescue, as well as working closely with NARAL and the Center for Reproductive Rights.

Junita Middleton was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York. She is a graduate of Lincoln University where she obtained her B.S. in Health Science. Junita had intentions to become a Physical Therapist, but over the years she returned to her true passion - writing. She now aspires to become a television writer and director. Currently, Junita is writing and directing a documentary about her late great- grandmother.

Debbie L. Miller writes plays, monologues, short stories, humor, memoir, and essays. Her monologue “Ida Mae Murphy” is part of a series that includes a one-person show (Driving to Hawaii), a play (Caravan Women), a short story (Bonnie’s Journey), a screenplay (Mushers), and four monologues. Miller’s plays have been produced in and outside of NYC. She wears many hats including freelance journalist and actor. She lives in Brooklyn.

Winter Miller was raised by feminist activists in New England hamlets from which she emerged relatively similar to the adorable wolves who raised her. Founding member of the Obie-winning 13Playwrights. Winter digs provocative, honest people. Like bells and whistles? Visit www.wintermiller.com

Alix Olson is an internationally touring spoken word artist-activist.  http://www.alixolson.com/

Marge Piercy:  Knopf just published Marge Piercy’s 19th poetry book Made in Detroit as well The Hunger Moon: New & Selected Poems in paperback.  Piercy wrote 17 novels , most recently Sex Wars; PM Press republished Dance The Eagle To Sleep, Vida and Braided Lives with new introductions, her first short story collection, The Cost of Lunch, Etc. and, recently, My Life, My Body, essays, interview and poems. Her memoir is Sleeping With Cats, Harper Perennial. www.margepiercy.com

Jeremy Rishe writes, acts and directs with Third Wing Media. He's a founding board member of Kids Creative Collective, which brings theater to young people in NYC. Select acting credits: TV/Film: Hard Candy Kid, The Black Box, Elementary, The Good Wife, Law & Order: SVU, Blue Bloods, The Weekend (co-writing credit), Two Night Stand. Select Off-Broadway: The Megile of Itzik Manger, Sex On Sunday, Starry Messenger, Jewtopia; Regional: Ala Shakes, Cleveland Playhouse, Pioneer Theatre, elsewhere. He holds an MFA from NYU's Graduate Acting Program.

Mercedes Sanchez is honored to be included in the Reproductive Freedom Festival and this anthology. They combine two of her passions, reproductive rights and writing.  By day, Mercedes works at Cedar River Clinics, a proud abortion provider in Washington State.  By night, Mercedes writes plays, poetry, and short stories.   She would like to dedicate her monologue, Sister, to all abortion providers, and especially to the amazing staff of Cedar River Clinics, for their compassion and courage.

Laura Shamas has written forty plays. 2016 writing projects include her new full-length play Merrion Square, and completing a novel (knock wood, fingers crossed, etc.). She is a co-founder, with Jennie Webb, of the Los Angeles Female Playwrights Initiative (lafpi.com).  Her play Circular was on The Kilroys 2015 List (Honorable Mention). Website: laurashamas.com.

Laura Zlatos is a Brooklyn-based theater artist and resident playwright with the Exquisite Corpse Company. Recent playwriting credits include: Happily After Ever (59E59 Theaters, Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Signature Theatre), Exposure (Gene Frankel Theater) Secession 2015 (New Orleans Faux/Real Festival of the Arts, Governers Island), The Weird Tree (New York International Fringe Festival), Things I Never Learned in Physics (Rattlestick Playwrights Theater), and Three Hours (HERE Arts Center). Laura is a recipient of the 2016 Woodward/Newman Drama Award (Happily After Ever) and a winner of the 2012 Chameleon Theatre Circle's New Play Contest (The Light in the Refrigerator). She has been a finalist for the Jerome Fellowship, the Princess Grace Playwriting Fellowship, the MFA Playwrights' Workshop at the Kennedy Center, and the Reva Shiner Comedy Award. She received her MFA in Playwriting from Columbia University, her MA in Performance Studies from NYU, and her BFA in Dramatic Writing and Gender and Sexuality Studies from NYU. www.laurazlatos.com