motherhood: the good, bad, and ugly was born out of my research of Verbatim Theater, specifically the practices of Anna Deavere Smith, The Tectonic Theater Project, and Eve Ensler; and the lack of fully fleshed out mother characters represented in theatre. In my research, I focused on how these different playwrights crafted their plays, identified the topic or event they wanted to explore, and the selection of their subjects. During the pandemic, I had the idea to create a theater piece that would tell the good, the bad, and the ugly of motherhood because in the media especially in the theater I only saw the two extremes of the selfless mother who had zero identity beyond her children and the evil stepmother. I find this trope to be very problematic because it perpetuates the monolithic narrative that once someone has a child, they must put everything else on hold so they can care for their child and be a “good mother”.
Like in the works of Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992, The Laramie Project, and The Vagina Monologues it was important to me to have stories from various racial, ethnic, socioeconomic, ages, marital statuses, and sexual orientations, but due to time restraints, I recognize that my play does not have examples from all of these identities. To begin my process, I came up with a series of questions like, “Tell me about the day you found out you were pregnant?” and “What are your plans for after your kids move out?”, to prompt my interviewees. My interview process was a bit different from the playwrights that I researched because I conducted one on one interviews and four talking circles that ranged from three participants to six. To select my subjects, I reached out to all the mothers I knew and encouraged them to suggest mothers who they thought would be interested. My reasoning for utilizing different mediums was to make my subjects feel comfortable and also generate as much material as possible in a short period of time. Over the course of the interview process, I interviewed twenty mothers via Zoom and used the software Otter.ai to transcribe their words. The one-on-one interviews ranged from twenty minutes to an hour, while the talking circles were a set hour, however, they could have gone on for much longer. Following the interviews, I went back to the transcripts generated by Otter.ai correcting mistakes and identifying speakers. Like The Tectonic Theater Project’s process, with the Macalester Theater Collective, the group read the collected material aloud and identified moments that stuck out to them or moments that were confusing or redundant. After receiving their feedback, I went through four drafts which were overseen by my advisor Miranda Rose Hall, who would give me weekly feedback. We need to make space for mothers to tell their stories free of guilt and shame, but instead with acceptance and love.
Kiwanuka-Woernle, Kalala C., "Let The People Speak: How Verbatim Theater Allows Historically Marginalized Groups Tell Their Stories" (2022). Theatre and Dance Honors Projects. 6.
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