hen a woman steps into a birthing environment and does not feel safe, we are letting her down. When a woman steps into a birthing environment and has to fight for her health care practitioners to honor her body's wisdom, we are letting her down," says Shanti O'Connor, a local producer bringing "Birth," a play by BOLD founder and playwright Karen Brody, to Bend beginning Nov. 9. "This play is about women giving women a voice, and...all the ways in which women birth themselves into motherhood."
O'Connor is also a nationally-certified counselor and Reiki master, and runs women's circles and retreats through her business Rooted & Open. She believes giving birth is one of the most transformational events in a woman's life and says she joyfully leaped at the idea of bringing "Birth" to Bend.
O'Connor's enthusiasm wasn't immediately shared. She reached out to the local theaters and improv community for help, but says no one responded.
"It was a little scary when people who are in the field of theater weren't interested in this project," says O'Connor. Then she did what she tells the women she counsels to do: reached out to her community of mothers for support. There she found the play's director, Marieka Greene.
"'Birth's' script reminds me of 'The Vagina Monologues,'" says Greene, who has both acted in and directed playwright Eve Ensler's work. Like "The Vagina Monologues," "Birth" is based on interviews with a variety of women and seeks to amplify their voices.
According to Greene, "Birth's" cast is diverse in both stage and birthing experience. Some actors are stepping on stage for the first time. Others have vast experience. Many have given birth, others haven't.
imberly Leemans spent the last 10 years working in the television and film industry. The actor is known for her roles in "The Walking Dead," "The Vampire Diaries" and "Nashville." Leemans says when she read "Birth's" script, the stories moved her and she wondered why more people aren't speaking openly about those traumatic and beautiful experiences. "I learned more about labor and delivery from doing this play then I have in my 30 years of life," says Leemans. "Every woman should see this show. This should be part of sex education, Planned Parenthood and just about any "how to be a human" handbook."
Actor Kristin Tone studied classical theater at the British American Drama Academy in London but eventually pursued a career in finance. At 44 she's back on stage for the first time. Tone says she's not sure what drew her to audition for a part in "Birth."
"The reasons we feel compelled to do things often reveal themselves after the fact," explains Tone. "This is an important play. It has asked me to examine my relationship to my body, my children's births and societal attitudes that I buy into regarding birth and women."
"Birth" is showing during Bend's first multi-event celebration and exploration of pregnancy and birth: Birth Awareness Week of Central Oregon. "Pushing one type of birth as 'the best' is not part of this play," says Greene. "There are all types of birth and they are all important."
O'Connor echoes Greene's sentiment. "This is not about natural births versus hospital births," she says. "This is a feminist movement. We are a group of individuals who are talking about and shedding light onto some of the ways in which our culture is letting women down."
Thurs. Nov. 9- Sun Nov. 11
Central Oregon Community College,
2600 NW College Way, Bend
Birth Awareness Week of Central Oregon
Central Oregon Community College