For the past five years, I’ve been writing a play called The Clinic about abortion providers in Wichita, Kansas. Throughout that time, I researched extensively, interviewed clinic providers and owners, and simultaneously volunteered for organizations like Abortion AF (formerly Lady Parts Justice League), where I helped them research CPCs in a project called Call Out Clinics, which is an online tool that allows women to investigate which clinics in their communities are legit and which ones are fake. The marriage of activism and art is inherit in my discipline.
A few weeks ago in the midst of the abortion bans, I offered my play royalty free to anyone who would like to put up a benefit reading in their hometown or city. My only rule was that all funds from such a reading had to benefit an abortion fund, clinic, or women in need. Over 60 people and organizations contacted me. In a matter of weeks, people across the country organized and began putting up readings of The Clinic, most recently in Nashville, Kansas City, and St. Louis. Cincinnati, Providence, and New York are coming up in the next few weeks, with other readings, in many other locations, in the process of planning and acquiring space. The beauty of the project is that people can read the play in their living room or backyard, in their local community center or at a theatre – wherever they have access! The whole point is not the production, but access to what is available, community coming together to activate, and finding ways to converse, motivate, and work together to counter abortion bans and anti-legislation.
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ST. LOUIS needs some love and we need to show up for Missouri residents! Look at the fabulous graphic! This reading of The Clinic will benefit Gateway Women’s Access Fund and a representative will be there to discuss what we can do now in Missouri and beyond. This couldn’t be more timely with one clinic left in the state. Share with your Missouri friends and spread the word or donate online directly at www.gwaf.org #theclinic #theclinicreadingseries #abortionrights #artasactivism #reproductiverights #reproductivefreedomfighter #stlouis
Why is this work important?
We have to destigmatize abortion. People have difficulty even saying the word. However, abortion is a safe and legal healthcare procedure. The more people talk about it, use the word abortion, and speak on their experiences, the more we can move away from rhetoric. As a play, The Clinic depicts abortion providers, their day-to-day routines and the obstacles of opposition, protest, and stress providers experience personally and professionally. I think it’s important we hold up these heroes of reproductive freedom and pay tribute to their work and legacies. I also felt it was vital that people learn and discover what working at an independent clinic might look and feel like. Most independent clinics don’t get federal funding and are not Planned Parenthood. They exist solely on their facilities’ revenue and donations.
Much of my play is about space: Access to space, whether that be to the nearest clinic, which for many in the United States could be quite far and possibly inaccessible. Access to the body and who or what legislation is trying to govern or dictate what can or can’t be done with said bodies. I wanted to explore what that feels and looks like on stage. So, the play is depicting public and private spaces related to abortion and reproductive services, exploring the political temperatures of different spaces, but also asking is the body a public or private space? And again, who has access to decisions and why?
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Last night these beautiful people rocked out a reading of The Clinic and raised $800 for @yellowfund and @ppswohio in Cincinnati/Covington, KY! They had swag! A bake sale! The cast donated their time and energy! I’m floored. Collectively, in two weeks these readings have raised over $2K for reproductive organizations, clinics, and abortion funds. I’m in awe of EVERY. SINGLE. ONE. OF. YOU. This kind of grassroots activism using art and the activation or building of community to bring awareness and help others proves we can make waves 🌊 🌊🌊. Thank you! We are NOT going back. #theclinic #theclinicreadingseries #cincinnati #abortion #abortionrights #reproductiverights #reproductivejustice #artasactivism
Is collaboration something you incorporate into your practice? Why or why not?
Theatre is inherently collaborative. It’s impossible to put up a play without a team of artists, designers, producers, actors, etc. So, this method of art as activism has been inspiring. Working with organizers and activists across the country and world, many of whom I did not know before this all happened, has been astoundingly motivating. I’m not creatively involved in the product of the readings taking place across the country, even in my hometown of New York. These readings are helmed by passionate organizers with conviction, hard work, and extreme positivity. Some simply want to build their local abortion fund, others are trying to help Southern women, while some people are trying to use the play to push local bills and legislation, either to make abortion a fundamental right in their home state or use the play as retaliation to an extremely restrictive, anti-choice bill. What’s important is communities are rallying together, raising voices, and awareness. Most call on local reproductive allies, providers, educators, and political officials to attend talkbacks after the play to inform the audience about what is happening in their backyard. All this community building is happening while funds being raised funds for reproductive rights. I couldn’t be happier about all of that.
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These miracle women, reproductive freedom fighters, pissed off nasty women in Kansas City are doing my play this Friday night. Tonight they had rehearsal and sent me this glorious picture, which in the face of everything happening, has touched my heart and sent happy tears down by face. They’ve already raised hundreds for Planned Parenthood Great Plains and will raise more. Help them out and go to the play if you’re in the area! The play is about community and friendship and overcoming adversity in the face of tragedy. And if there’s one thing I’ve learned this month: community coming together is what we have to change the world and each other for the better. #theclinic #theclinicreadingseries #abortionrights #abortion #youknowme #reproductiverights #reproductivefreedomfighter #proabortion #kansascity #plannedparenthood #plannedparenthoodgreatplains #artasactivism
Why do you choose this project as your main method of engaging with feminism?
I feel chosen by this project. It demanded my attention, time, and focus as a playwright. Much of this I believe relates to two ideas. First, I was raised by women and on female culture. I was heavily influenced by the various types of women who were all positive female role models in my life (my Mom, grandmothers, aunts, friends, and teachers) as well as female-centric media like Steel Magnolias, The Golden Girls, and Designing Women. When I mentioned these female-driven projects, my friend Laurel noted all were out in ether in 1989, when I was nine, which is, perhaps, a very influential time for a young person. I still remember going to my grandmother’s house, where she would cut strawberries, which I dipped in sugar, as we watched Dorothy, Blanche, Rose and Sofia. My experience of women through media and the women in my life made me empathetic to their perspectives and circumstances. I believe you can feel the humor and independence of the characters from something like Steel Magnolias sneaking into my characters and work in The Clinic. The difference is, I have combined the friendship and perseverance of these comedies with the very scary reality and stakes of abortion access in America.
Secondly, as a gay man I understand the rights to bodily autonomy and feel a direct correlation to reproductive freedom and a person’s right to choose. Body autonomy is freedom. As a gay person, who has benefitted from the countless help of female allies throughout decades of gay liberation, I believe it’s crucial that men, gay and straight, stand with women and transfolks in the fight for reproductive freedom.
I’m also from Kansas, a hotbed for the abortion debate, and it made sense to explore the people I knew and the voices I heard in my head regionally, in a play that is asking what the future of reproductive care looks like – which, I believe is, ready on demand, mobile, and accessible for all.What are 5 ways our readers can support the work you’re doing?
- Do a reading in your living room or organize a reading in your community. I can email anyone interested a copy of the script. You don’t need to be an actor or acquire actors. The cast is large, but multiple people can read multiple parts. Ages, race, and genders don’t matter, but I ask that you try to make your event diverse and inclusive. The event can be as large or small as you want it be. All that matters is you come together with others to raise awareness and generate funds for reproductive organizations, specifically independent clinics and local abortion funds.
- Can’t do a reading? Request the script, read it yourself, and donate $10 or more to The Yellowhammer Fund, Alabama Women’s Center, SisterSong, Gateway Women’s Access Fund, Trust Women, or your state abortion fund. Independent clinics and activists working on the ground need us most right now. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will send you the script personally. As well, if you don’t have the capacity to do a reading, let me know where you are and I can try to connect you to others in your area. There are individuals who want to do readings, but haven’t been able to complete their fundraising team yet. As well, reach out to local theatre groups or theatres to see if they will host you or support putting up a reading locally soon.
- Donate merchandise that can be used to fundraise at the readings and in our online campaign, which I hope to launch soon. We’ve found raffles and bake sale components at the readings raise more money. As the readings continue, I am trying to coordinate efforts for organizers to sell merchandise at the site or online. You can also donate refreshments or baked goods to these readings yourself.
- Share what we are doing with your network and encourage others to participate. Promote the concept of the reading series on social media or reach out to local journalists to spread the word. The more readings and attendance, the more grassroots funds which can be raised, and the more people can collectively come together to help women in need. Once a reading is scheduled, help get people there! Our project is grassroots, so word of mouth depends on each organizer and what they have access to. Current readings can be accessed here: www.willbrumley.com/theclinicreadingseries
- Finally, volunteer at your local clinic as an escort. Get involved in your local abortion fund. Get involved in local politics or run for office. Attend town halls. Find ways to engage with the community and find your allies so you can all work together. Maybe using the play to seek those people out is a good way to start?