Lisa Loomer's ROE Opens 4/24 at Angus Bowmer Theatre
The Oregon Shakespeare Festival will open the world premiere of Lisa Loomer's Roe on April 24 in the Angus Bowmer Theatre. Preview performances are April 20, 22 and 23.
Directed by OSF Artistic Director Bill Rauch, Roe is about the two women at the heart of Roe v. Wade: lawyer Sarah Weddington, who was only 26 when she argued the case before the U.S. Supreme Court, and plaintiff Norma McCorvey, the hard-drinking, wild-tempered bartender who became "Roe" after seeking to end an unwanted pregnancy. That they won the landmark 1973 case legalizing abortion is widely known; how different their lives were after the case-and how those divergent journeys reflect the subsequent polarization of American culture-is far less familiar.
Roe, a co-production with Arena Stage and Berkeley Repertory Theatre,is the latest play to emerge from American Revolutions: The United States History Cycle, OSF's commissioning program examining key moments of change in U.S. history, such as Lyndon Baines Johnson's presidency in Robert Schenkkan's Tony Award-winning All the Way and The Great Society, and the "de-industrial revolution" of the 1990s in Lynn Nottage's Blackburn Prize-winning Sweat.
"We produced All the Way in 2012, a presidential election year, and to be doing another American Revolutions play four years later during another presidential election feels vitally important to me," Rauch said. "Whoever the final candidates are for the major parties, there is no doubt the issue of abortion is going to be more in the foreground than it has been in years. To look at what led up to 1973 and what has happened since feels like something a theatre company should be doing in 2016."
Compelling, entertaining, thought-provoking, humorous and moving, Roe is not a polemic, but instead an examination of the difficult choices women make and the passion each side has for its cause.
"The characters in Roe really span from very decidedly pro-choice to very decidedly pro-life, and there are even characters who shift their views over the course of the story," Rauch said. "What Lisa's done that's so remarkable is she really reveals the humanity of every character. So wherever someone sits in their own heart on abortion, I think Lisa's given space for everybody to come and experience the story."
"I see theatre as people sitting together in the dark to look at the human condition," Loomer said in OSF's Prologue magazine. "Perhaps to consider a question together. If we are really considering the questions that are evoked by Roe v. Wade, don't we have to hear from both sides? I don't kid myself that a play will change minds. It happens, but very rarely. But if we can open our minds enough to even consider a position that is different from the one we brought into the theatre-that is the beginning of compassion."
OSF previously produced Loomer's Distracted in 2007; Loomer's other plays include The Waiting Room, Living Out (directed by Rauch at the Mark Taper Forum), Bocón! and Café Vida. She has been awarded both the American Theatre Critics Award and the Jane Chambers Playwriting Award twice, the Kennedy Center Fund for New American Plays Award, the Lurie Foundation Award, the Edgerton Foundation New American Plays Award, the Imagen Foundation Award and the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize, among others.
Coinciding with the run of Roe is the second year of the Living Ideas: Art and Community Dialogue Series, a humanities program that seeks to forge connections between individuals and communities through collaborative programming driven by the works on the Festival's stages. This year, Living Ideas will present a series of events that frame Roe v. Wade through the lens of history (May 14-15), agency (July 15-16) and advocacy (August 19-20).
The cast of Roe features Sarah Jane Agnew as Sarah Weddington, Sara Bruner as Norma McCorvey, Gina Daniels as Aileen/Barbara/Uma/Third Pregnant Woman/Ensemble, Susan Lynskey as Linda Coffee/Judy/First Pregnant Woman/Peggy/Ensemble, Amy Newman as Helen/Second Pregnant Woman/Ronda/Ensemble, Kate Mulligan as Molly/Mary/Ensemble, Catherine Castellanos as Ofelia/Connie Gonzalez/Ensemble, Barret O'Brien as Henry McClusky/Robert Flowers/Abortion Doctor/Ensemble, Jeffrey King as Ron Weddington/Jay Floyd/ Flip Benham/Ensemble, Richard Elmore as Justice Blackmun/Dr. Kennedy/Ensemble, Zoe Bishop as Justice Blackmun/ Dr. Kennedy/Ensemble and Nemuna Ceesay as Roxanne.
Scenic design is by Rachel Hauck, costumes by Raquel Barreto, lighting by Jane Cox, composition and sound by Paul James Prendergast and video by Wendall K. Harrington. Tom Bryant is dramaturg, Rebecca Clark Carey is voice and text director, U. Jonathan Toppo is fight director, Sarah Beata DeLong is associate costume designer, Lavina Jadhwani is Phil Killian Directing Fellow and Jeremy Eisen is stage manager.
Roe's Lead Sponsor is the The Goatie Foundation, and the play is the recipient of an Edgerton Foundation New Play Award. OSF also gratefully acknowledges the support of Production Sponsor The Paul G. Allen Family Foundation, and Production Partners Andrew and Brenda Birrell, Nancy and Donald de Brier, Carol Streeter and Harold Goldstein, Thomas Castle and Pamela Howard, Claudette and George Paige, and Betty and Jack Schafer.
The production runs April 20 through October 29, 2016.