Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Ticking Clock

On Friday I went to the premier of the play, The Ticking Clock, written by Jody Gerhman and directed by Rose Bell. Early last year, I was a member of the development team for this project, which interviewed hundreds of women from diverse backgrounds about their feelings around motherhood and their biological clock. Those interviews were then transformed into several different monologues, strung together by Jody to create a script that is both poignant and funny. Unfortunately I wasn't able to keep working on the project for more than a few months (drat that school of mine!), but I continued to meet with Jody when she needed to bounce ideas about her script, and then later joined in a reading of the play at the director's house. Watching the process of the play's creation has been fascinating. So many women were a part of it, as developers, interviewers, interviewees, writers, and actors. Throughout the project, I was struck by how different all of us are, in age, background and politics, but how connected we are by those tiny, almost invisible parts of ourselves: our eggs. A woman only gets so many when she's born, and no matter who we are, every time an egg falls from our ovaries, it sets off a gong saying "Now. Have a baby now!" The female body has its own agenda, whether we want to become mothers or not.

I was one of the women who was interviewed and I knew my story about giving birth to a child who is severely disabled was one of the monologues in the play, so I was curious to see how it would feel to watch "myself" talk about raising "my daughter." I know the story isn't really about me, but the emotions in the monologue when I read it were so true to how I feel, I felt vulnerable. Do the other women who were interviewed feel that way?

When they started rehearsals for the play in October, I regretted that I had to drop out of the project. I wanted to continue to be a part of something so creatively profound. And it would be fun to be on stage again. Nope. Back to school I went, only hearing about the play from Jody and my friend Kristen, an actress reading one of the monologues. (Why did I want to go back to school? Oh yeah, I need a job.)

Anyway, opening night came this past Friday and I went with Jane and another writing friend of mine, a man who proudly calls himself Republican. Not that there's anything wrong with being a Republican, but I wondered how he'd like a play about women's choices around fertility. On stage was a fantastic, multi-leveled set of oversized clock faces connected together to form stairs and platforms. We took our seat, the lights dimmed, and the play began.

What an incredible show! Under Rose's direction, Jody's words jumped to life, telling the story of the struggle we women have around our fertility. Should we have a child, or not? And if we get pregnanat, should we keep it, abort it, or give it up for adoption? How do those choices impact our lives? A teenage girl decides to give up her baby for adoption while across the stage the adopting mother worries that the girl might change her mind. A mother wants her daughter-in-law to have a child, but the daughter-in-law, an artist, doesn't want children. Two sisters talk about how the fact one of them has three kids and the other is infertile has ruined their relationship. A career woman decides to get pregnant which alienates all of her friends. A lesbian tells the story of how her child was conceived and a Mexican woman talks about the way her culture made her feel when she couldn't have children. And then there was the monologue from the mother of the disabled child, surrounded by beautiful moms dressed like they were in a pageant, bragging to each other about what perfect children they have.

I cried. Not just during the monologue based on me, but during many of the stories. And I laughed, a lot. So many of the scenes were hysterical. Half the cast were amateurs but they managed to become the characters with honesty and strength. I was definitely impressed. And my Republican friend? He loved it. Even a man not known for being "touchy-feely" was moved by this show.

This is one of the reasons I love the theater so much, and why I like to publish other writers. I love collaboration, working with a group of people to create something new. The Ticking Clock exemplifies that creative energy superbly. Not only is it a play that includes actors, directors and designers, but it includes the collective creativity of hundreds of women and a writer who wove their stories together.

The Ticking Clock premiered in Mendocino County, but is now available for other communities to perform. Go to The Ticking Clock website for more information (link is at top of this post).

You can also read a good review about the performance, written by Reid Edelman, here.


Jane said...

Wonderful description. And nice to get a little "inside" view.

I'd love to see the play again. I wasn't able to absorb it all on first viewing.

Jody Gehrman said...

Wow, Terena, thanks for that generous and perceptive post. I know what you mean about the odd vulnerability of hearing your own story altered and transformed. It's one of the trippiest feelings ever! I so appreciated your support throughout, even though your time was limited.

Mattson Tomlin said...

interesting... wish I could see it!

Corrie Howe said...

Sounds like a powerful play. I like the idea of the over-sized clock. Too bad I live on the other side of the USA>