A Philadelphia-based theater company is planning to stage a musical comedy about abortion — but while the production is still weeks away from its debut, it is running into some serious obstacles. Lightning Rod Special, led by co-director Alice Yorke, has notified local media of their upcoming show that will debut in August at the Painted Bride Art Center. But while Yorke insists this isn’t about “pro-choice propaganda,” there’s no mistaking what the message of this show is meant to be.
Ideas for the show include an “irate gun-toting fetus running around and shouting about how it would kill anyone who tried to hurt it,” and “a Busby Berkeley-inspired song-and-dance kick-line of fetuses,” although Yorke has said she isn’t sure what will be included in the final version of the show. Yorke also said that they have struggled to come up with a name for the show, which is still — despite being just weeks away from its debut — untitled. “We were going with ‘Fetus Chorus,'” Yorke said. “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?'”
Other titles under consideration are “The A Word,” “Baby Girl,” “Monster,” “Mine,” and “Wanted.”
Oddly, Yorke tries to argue that this is a play about personhood. “We’re definitely, as makers, on one side,” she said. “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.”
But if the show is about personhood and bodily autonomy, then abortion should be presented as a negative. After all, preborn baby is a human being — science has shown us that beyond the shadow of a doubt — and they have a right to bodily autonomy as well, and more importantly, the right to life.
The show has other obstacles to overcome besides trying to find a title and working out the plot kinks. Yorke admitted that funding was a major issue. “We were basically rejected for every grant that we applied for,” she said. “Even good, liberal granting foundations. Everybody is just so, so afraid to talk about abortion.” They did eventually get a small amount of funding, but evidently fail to realize why so few organizations want to fund an “abortion comedy.” It’s not because people are afraid to talk about abortion — it’s because, even among those who call themselves “pro-choice,” abortion is simply not something that is funny or comedic or light-hearted.
Hollywood has tried this tactic already. The movie “Obvious Child” was billed as the first-ever romantic comedy to revolve around abortion. While pro-abortion feminists enthusiastically applauded the movie, moviegoers didn’t. “Obvious Child” flopped at the box office, even as an independent limited-release film.
The reality is that people are simply not interested in seeing abortion, which takes the life of a preborn human being, trivialized, mocked, or laughed at. A woman feeling that she has no choice but to undergo an abortion does not make for lighthearted comedy. And creating movies and musicals designed to intentionally be offensive is hardly going to endear people towards keeping abortion legal.
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