Dedication to any piece of work, whether it be a painting, a song, rebuilding a car or even writing a paper for class, requires time and effort.
The end product may be something to hang up in a home, a tune to listen to endlessly, transportation that is customized or just a good grade. For Madeline Burrows, however, her work required her to inundate a culture with which she was unfamiliar and turn her experience into a narrative for audiences to empathize with, praise and scold – all for the sake of raising awareness and understanding about women’s reproductive rights.
Burrows, a graduate of Hampshire College in Amherst, Mass., is the writer and sole performer in her one woman play “MOM BABY GOD,” showing on Friday and Saturday at the Haymarket Theatre at 8 p.m. The play is simultaneously a passion project as well as a thesis project that’s inspiration stems from political policies presented in 2011 to defund Planned Parenthood.
“That’s when it became clear to me how much ground has been lost around reproductive rights,” Burrows said. “I started to research the anti-choice movement and realized that in order to give an honest portrayal of the movement I needed to see it from within.”
Her desire for an in-depth exploration of the pro-life movement sent Burrows on a year long, undercover study, attending rallies and conferences, later transcribing occurrences and interviews into a final product of a one woman show.
But the process for Burrows was rooted in collaboration.
“Early on I had dozens and dozens of interview transcripts and notes from workshops and protests I attended, and I came into the rehearsal room with my then-director Emma Ayres and carved out these characters and the initial structure of the piece,” Burrows said. “Because I had done so much research, it was really challenging for me to make decisions early on about what to keep and what to throw away, so having the outside eyes of my team members was crucial.”
Collaboration was also key for the play to be performed in Lincoln.
Charles Holm, UNL masters student of history and ethnic studies, explained that University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s International Socialists Club has been promoting and selling tickets for the event.
“This is a critical theatre project,” Holm said. “(The International Socialists Club) thought that this is an important thing to bring to Lincoln.”
Along with the International Socialists Club, other organizations around Lincoln and UNL have been helping with this “grassroots organizing and fundraising effort.” Holm mentioned Students for Choice, Students for Sex Health, Lincoln’s Secularist Humanists and The Hot Mess bar as just a few groups who have been advertising and promoting the play. The space for the play’s performance was even rented by an anonymous donor.
“Someone else believes in the importance of this show,” Holm said.
The donation of the performance space will enable attendees to witness Burrows’ project, one that took more than 30 drafts, consisting of a narrative arc that provides audiences with the perspectives of seven characters attending a fictitious Students for Life of America Conference. Audience members are invited to “attend” the conference as well, as they are given nametags upon entering the theatre.
Burrows’ immersive tactics, as well as the politically-charged nature of the play’s topic, has prompted controversial feedback, and she anticipates that more will occur as time goes on.
“We’ve already been written up in various right-wing publications from the National Review to Live Action News to anti-choice activist Jill Stanek’s blog,” Burrows said. “But most of the controversial feedback has been from people who haven’t seen the show and are simply afraid of it.”
Despite these responses, Burrows is confident that “MOM BABY GOD” is not controversial. Rather, it is a realistic exploration of a certain facet of American society and the struggle of a young girl to navigate her way through it, she said.
“It is an honest portrayal of the world of the anti-choice movement and the struggles of a teenage girl to negotiate her sexuality in the context of a repressive atmosphere,” Burrows said. “In many ways it’s a coming of age story.”
Burrows hopes that audience will, above all, understand the play’s necessity.
“I hope the show gives audiences a stronger sense of the tactics and rhetoric of the contemporary anti-abortion movement and a sense of how these politics affect young women,” she said. “More than anything, I hope audiences leave the show with a sense of urgency.”