Kirsten Greenidge's blog posts

Feeding the play

October 21, 2016

Who has choice? Who does not? What can surprise us about the ways choice lies in front, behind, or beside us?

The history of birth in the United States, particularly in the last one hundred years, is dense and fascinating. Most importantly, it is not monolithic. So I am acutely aware that the history is dependent on many factors including those related to region, race, socio-economic circumstance, cultural identity, among others.

Because the U.S. has been discussing health insurance a lot in the last few years, I have been keenly aware of how the history of birth can be closely tied not only to women’s history but also to the history of health insurance and the U.S. and global economy, as well as innovations in medical technology.

Lately I have been wondering, for the sake of the play and the sake of the country where I live: how did we get to this moment? Where are we? As I work on this play, the United States is in the middle of a contentious election and the people of the United States are asking this question over and over: how did we get here? Who are we? Are we different than we were a hundred years ago? As we sit and watch a woman run for the presidency of the United States we are seeing women’s “issues” being discussed in ways they have not been in many years, and so it seems fitting to be writing this play at this time.

Who are we? Seems to be the perfect question to be asking while contemplating how we as a culture view birth and how we treat that process. What do we value if we are a developed country but we also have one of the highest maternal death ratios of the developed world? What do we value if we can link this history of birth in this country to the history of our economy and legislation and not, say, the history of wellness and joy? When I would look at photographs of nurses and new mothers in maternity wards when doing initial research, I would also examine my own feelings: do these women feel estranged from myself? Did they have choices? Do I have choices? Or, given my own circumstances, am I possibly more constrained, than I think I am, despite living where medical schools and hospitals grow thick like so much wheat.

As I gathered materials, back in April and May, it became clear that this topic of Birth in the United States would raise complex and tangled questions and thus create complex and tangled “answers” in the form of a script. Condensing these into thirty or so pages required making some choices. I chose to focus on two black women, but I also did not want their stories to be predictable. I did not want an audience to automatically see two women and assume they would not have any choices because of what they looked liked.

I did not want us to assume, as an audience, that because they were black their babies were doomed or their bodies were doomed, so I made them middle class. However, I knew I needed the piece to broaden in scope to include more history than those stories arcs might be able to hold without having to rely on exposition, so I included the Recollections—ways for us to get bits of history and perspective to discuss this idea of choice—who has it? Who does not? What can surprise us about the ways choice lies in front, behind, or beside us?


Creative Process

August 8, 2016

US playwright Kirsten Greenidge shares some thoughts about her creative process and involvement with B!RTH.

Before having my oldest child, I didn’t think much about writing about my experience having her, but afterwards, my birth experience consumed me.

I wasn’t necessarily compelled to write about it so much as to fasten it into a narrative of other parents’ birth stories:  was what I experienced typical?  How did my race and class and educational background influence the choices I made about both my births?  What myths did I believe and do I still believe about birth?

The play needs to remain human.  And, not be boring.

I don’t think many of us think of birth having a history. Many people in the United States do have access to health care and hospitals,  and so we feel we have, as a whole, access to the best prenatal and maternity care as well.  But our maternal and infant mortality rates are startling, so I am working to create a play that addresses this, but also is true to a historical narrative that creates a context and says, what a minute, not everyone has choice or safety or piece of mind.  And the play needs to remain human.  And, not be boring.

No one wants ideas slammed against their heads, even when they do want to come away having been changed or having learned something.  And while I am new this subject, the subject is not new to the world (we were all born somewhere), and so there’s a ton of material about birth and everyone has opinions about it, so there is a lot information to sift through.

Sorting through it all and working and reworking, as a playwright, is half the fun.

Right now it’s a matter of selecting what I need, what the play needs, and how it presents a prism of perspective that is inviting rather than a jumble of shards people would rather leave on the floor to figure themselves out.  Sorting through it all and working and reworking, as a playwright, is half the fun.  I have a draft to turn in, and it’s late in the day, so I can’t quite say what the other half is, only that I am honored to be given the opportunity.