Back when people were climbing the walls during lockdown, Artemisia Theatre’s Producing Artistic Director and Playwright Julie Proudfoot was making the most of her time, writing Title Ten. As the work was going into production, the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. Now that Title X (which provides affordable birth control and reproductive healthcare) is in the news, Rebellious asked Ms. Proudfoot for her views.
Janet Arvia: You wrote Title Ten at the height of the pandemic. Other than being stuck inside, what was your inspiration for creating the play?
Julie Proudfoot: The inspiration for the play was the coercive gag order the former president put on clinics funded under Title X. He threatened to take away their federal funding if they informed women of their right to a legal abortion. That riled me up and was the inspiration and impetus for the play.
Title Ten briefly outlines the history of abortion rights in this country and represents eight very different women from 1970 to the present who share their personal stories on the topic. How did you go about your research?
I dug into major pro-choice and pro-life movements and then picked those time periods when the pitch of the argument between the two seemed the loudest.
Among the play’s female characters are a 32-year-old Christian activist, a 40-something Right-to-Life speaker in Nebraska, and an asylum officer at the Texas-Mexico border. Are these women fictional? Based on actual people? Or a combination of both?
All of the characters are fictional. But my research into abortion rights in America did introduce me to real-life women that inspired these dramatized characters.
You’ve written the play for 1-10 actresses. Yet Artemisia’s world premiere production features Melanie McNulty and Kaitlyn Cheng. Why did you and co-director Willow James choose to go with two performers?
Willow and I wanted to showcase the wonderful talents of our two actors while keeping the onstage world safe. With COVID and its variants still going strong, the smaller the cast the safer. I also think watching two actors portraying four roles each gives the play a theatrical richness.
Title Ten begins with a 17-year-old and ends with her as a mature woman. As she reflects on the topic of abortion, she says, “I’m not trying to get political.” Do you think there’s a way a woman’s right to choose can be non-politicized?
Great question! She follows that line with “but I look around and see a lot of things wrong.” What I try to do with Title Ten is make clear that just because abortion rights have been politicized that reality doesn’t erase the profound personal impact of a loss of choice on a woman’s life. The right to choose is a deeply private, self-affirming freedom, that gives women autonomy, not just over their bodies, their family planning, but over their careers and, ultimately, over their ability to pursue success and happiness. I think we begin to understand a women’s right to choose when we put a specific face and name and life on that right. It’s not a choice, it’s her choice.
Do you think you’ll write a prequel to Title Ten, like Title Nine?
I love this question too. I’m at work on a project now, but it’s not a prequel. It’s in reaction to the recent SCOTUS decision and dramatizes the safe spots in America where women from red states can find refuge in legal abortion; where they are trusted to make their own decisions; where abortion is healthcare.
What do you hope audiences walk away with after seeing the play?
The play is a call to action; to protect a woman’s right to choose by trusting her and all women to make that choice. If abortion is wrong for you, don’t have one. But no one should have the right to stop another woman from having an abortion, if it is right for her. The play is also a celebration of personal freedoms. I want the audience to walk away inspired to fight the good fight, the compassionate fight, for women’s rights, especially their right to choose.
What is your target audience for the play?
Everyone. But I especially wrote the play for women who are losing abortion rights all around the country in red states. I want them to know they aren’t alone. That there is hope.
Artemisia Theatre presents the world premiere of Julie Proudfoot’s Title Ten at Theater Wit from Nov. 25 through Dec. 18, 2022. Planned Parenthood of Illinois is a sponsor of this production; on Dec. 3, Planned Parenthood Night presents a talkback after the 7:30pm performance.