The Birds and the Bees: Unabridged
by John Stoltenberg
“Let’s rethink sex” has suddenly become a thing. Well, not suddenly maybe. But it certainly has new pertinence in this era of full-frontal disclosure. Which made the themes of The Birds and the Bees: Unabridged all the more tantalizing. According to advance publicity,
Through dialogue, movement, song, humor, and multimedia, the performance examines such themes as partner communication, sexual identity, the de-sexualization of aging women, today’s “hook-up” culture, and sexual health.
I was fortunate to see this entertainingly provocative show when it was in town as part of Mosaic Theater Company’s Workshop Series—one of DC theater’s hidden gems. Hidden in plain sight, actually. Anyone can come, to the series or one by one. Performances are one night only and not open to press, so only those who attend can know a typical program’s depth of substance and high quality of talent. I’ve seen several and always left impressed.
I got an okay to report briefly on this particular workshop—a performance by the New York-based Honest Accomplice Theatre—because HAT had already been touring The Birds and the Bees: Unabridged for a few years.
The company’s mission is
to generate dialogue and stimulate change by focusing on topics that are often silenced, seen as shameful, or portrayed as one-dimensional, specifically through the lens of the women and trans experience. To deliver on this mission, Honest Accomplice Theatre produces work by the community, with the community, and for the community.
That phrase “the lens of the women and trans experience” jumped out at me. As I was to learn, it points to a radical (and rare) inclusiveness that in the hands of HAT has inspired some truly original feminist theatermaking. “We want people to know that others out there recognize the complexity of modern female and trans sexuality, and to feel comfortable in challenging the conceptions society often defines for them,” says Honest Accomplice Theatre.
The Birds and the Bees: Unabridged was devised by a rotating company of actors under the co-direction of Maggie Keenan-Bolger and Rachel Sullivan. Each of the two dozen short scenes in the play was based in some way on the creators’ real-life experiences of different aspects of sexuality. In addition to working from the truths of former and current cast members, HAT surveyed over 2,000 people online. It was a remarkable instance of theater art proceeding from shared principles that profoundly value the embodied uniqueness of individual lives.
I’ve seen a lot of collaboratively created theater in my day, but the singular process that imbued Birds and the Bees with its vivid authenticity was for me a new one.
The wonder is that Honest Accomplice Theatre has not been to DC before. On the strength of its one-night stand at Mosaic, the hope is that HAT’ll be back.
Created and Performed by:
Grace: Maybe Burke; Terry: AshIeigh Awusie; Alex: Stephanie Mallick; Jean: Meggan Dodd; Joanna: Lindsay Griffin; Ramona: Riti Sachdeva; Emerson: Jordan Ho; Linda: Cat Fisher
The Waiting Room
Sexy Time #1
Sexy Time #2
Everybody Wants Sex
1 In 4
Sexy Time #3
Devil In A Blue Dress
The Waiting Room
Creative Team and Crew:
Co-Creators and Directors: Maggie Keenan-Bolger & Rachel Sullivan; Production Stage Manager: Kristin Kelly; Assistant Director/DanceCaptain/Lights: Maybe Burke; Sound: Nathan Gregory; Costumes: Amanda Roberge; Props: Brenna Hughes; Armor Props: Heather Nielsen; Graphic Design: Nelson Salis; Videos: Andrew Keenan-Bolger; “Everybody Wants Sex” Lyrics: EllaRose Chary; “Everybody Wants Sex” Music: Teresa Lotz; “What Do You See When You Look at Me” Monologue: Taryn Wiskey
Running Time: About 90 minutes, with no intermission
The Birds and the Bees: Unabridged was performed in the Mosaic Workshop Series by the Honest Accomplice Theatre company November 27, 2017, in the Lang Theatre in the Atlas Performing Arts Center – 1333 H Street NE, in Washington, DC.
The next performances in Mosaic’s Workshop Series are Yoga Play by Dipika Guha, directed by Jennifer L. Nelson (January 29, 2018), and To Kill a King (or City of Good Abode) by Josh Ford, directed by KenYatta Rogers (March 12, 2018). Tickets are available online.