Lawrence playwright invites hometown to join conversation on maternal health outcomes – The Lawrence Times

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Timmia Hearn DeRoy plans to write a play about maternal morbidity and create a conversation with its author. Now it’s Lawrence’s turn to help create a play that speaks to the community.

In a series of rehearsals, stage readings, and talkbacks over the next few weeks, DeRoy invites everyone to participate in a community conversation about maternal health outcomes, featuring DeRoy’s 10-act play “Birth Children and Ghosts.” springboard.


Drawing on years of historical research, plus dissertation work on how stories can foster social change, DeRoy shows that storytelling devices—such as music, theater, and film—are “one of the best ways to take the pulse and reflect.” of the people.” Telling your own story is most effective, said DeRoy, whose work focuses on social justice drama.

“I set out to write a drama about maternal mortality and morbidity among women in the African diaspora, specifically in Guyana where I conducted my research,” said DeRoy, who uses all pronouns.

But something else emerged.

“I think the show is about the experiences of black women and Aboriginal women and white women and Asian women, just different classes of women, whereas the original show I was trying to write was really about telling a specific story,” they said.

Births and Ghosts is “a queer biracial couple’s journey through pregnancy, and the ghosts that haunt them,” DeRoy said. Traveling through four hundred years of colonial history, into doctors’ offices, places of worship, on the water, in political offices, and into the homes of pregnant women and those who cared for them, the play asks us to examine our own experiences of pregnancy and pregnancy. The desire to be or not be a parent. If our ancestors only had nightmares, how could we be their wildest dreams? “

contribute Timmia Hearn DeRoy and his wife (left) with Pere DeRoy of Three Sides Productions

The series is produced by Deroy and Pere Deroy’s production company Three Sides Productions. The couple also collaborated with cinematographer and editor Max Jiang on a documentary series asking “Who Becomes a Parent?” Parts of the show, still in development, follow a queer couple in a medical world plagued by discrimination. The experience of struggling in the health care system highlights the DeRoy family’s journey to expand their family.

DeRoy, who cited his own experiences with IVF, pregnancy and parenting as inspiration for “Born Children and Ghosts,” said the show is not autobiographical, but there is some crossover between documentary and drama. Ultimately, the show is grounded in multiple layers, generations, and realities of people in the African diaspora and beyond.

The cast of “Natural Children and Ghosts” includes Ann Bennett as Char and Sarah McGuire as Emily – a married couple. Carmel Garcia, Gabrielle Smith, Rhonda Simmons and Chris Pendry appear as ghosts.

Cast members include Lauren K. Smith, stage manager; Pere DeRoy, playwright; Michelle Hefner Hayes, musical director; and Alison Lewis, musical director/consultant.

public rehearsal

Rehearsals will be held virtually or in-person during the day at various locations around town every weekday from Monday, October 23, through Tuesday, November 14, to accommodate the DeRoy family’s schedule. Please look for upcoming times and locations on Three Sides Productions’ website, Facebook and Instagram.


DeRoy, who also serves as director, said everyone is welcome to attend — whether they choose to participate or just watch — even if it’s just for a brief time. The point isn’t to present a “shiny, perfect piece” of her artistic vision. Instead, she plans to record the sessions for her own use and edit the script based on the process and its feedback.

DeRoy said they hope participants will show up with an open mind and listen while remaining polite and respectful — regardless of their stance on issues like queer parenting or abortion. Everyone has something in common: they are all born.

“This story is about people who lived through these things in different eras,” DeRoy said. “I think they’re all true in their own special way. They’re all honest and then they’re reflective, you know. I’m going to be releasing a website with all the resources, websites, news articles that we excerpted for the play — books you can read because it all happened. It all happened.”

In today’s post-Dobbs world, DeRoy said, Kansas remains a place with high rates of reproductive injustice and incarceration, particularly among Black and Indigenous people.

Death rates increased among pregnant Black and Native Kansans between 2009 and 2019. Research shows that black women are more likely to die from pregnancy than other groups in the United States.

According to a report by the Vera Institute, the incarceration rate for black people in Kansas has increased 51 percent since 1990. “In 2015, black people were incarcerated at 3.9 times the rate of white people, and Native Americans were incarcerated at 1.5 times the rate of white people,” the report said.

Read aloud in stages

DeRoy has lived in Lawrence for most of his life and grew up on the city’s dance and theater scene, including the Carnegie Building, the original home of the Lawrence Center for the Arts.

Staged readings in the final phase of “Natural Children and Ghosts” will take place Wednesday through Friday, November 15, 16, and 17 at 7:30 p.m. in the event space of the Carnegie Building (200 W. Ninth St. Modeated ) held at the end of each approximately 90-minute show, there are also planned talkbacks – conducted by a different group each night. Once again, DeRoy sees these talkbacks as opportunities for the community to share conversations.


General admission tickets can be reserved on the show’s website, Attendees are asked to “pay as much as possible,” DeRoy said, whether they reserve tickets or pay at the door. DeRoy is simply asking viewers not to reserve tickets until their own availability is confirmed to prevent unused reservations.

“But anyone can come,” DeRoy said. “If your budget is $0, we definitely encourage you to come. It’s totally welcome.”

“Born Children and Ghosts” is the recipient of a 2023 Rocket Grant from the Spencer Museum of Art at the University of Kansas and Charlotte Street, Kansas City. The Rocket Grants website tells visitors that it “funds unconventional, public-facing artwork in surprising places.”

The Carnegie Building is part of the Liberty Frontier National Heritage Area, which documents the struggle for freedom in 41 counties in eastern Kansas and western Missouri. From the Cider Gallery where auditions took place to the culmination of the Carnegie Community Project and everywhere in between, buildings carry history and spaces are part of that process, DeRoy said.

“There’s a lot of history in the founding of Lawrence,” DeRoy said. “I wanted to use this work to illuminate the roots of the freedom struggle in the way we engage in exclusionary politics and just say, ‘These are our stories. These are our ghosts.”

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Equity reporter Tricia Masenthin (she/her) can be reached at tmasenthin (at) lawrencekstimes (dot) com. Read more of her work for The Times here. View her staff profile here.

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