Committed Citizen Debuts at PACA
Committed Citizen makes its world debut at Erie's Performing Artists Collective Alliance this April.
Friday, April 21
Inspired by real events and experiences, the new play Committed Citizen grapples with the issue of abortion from several unique perspectives. Written by Erie native Abbe Tanenbaum, the play is making its world debut at Erie's Performing Artists Collective Alliance (PACA) this April. The one-act play will be directed by Karen Schelinski and Mark Tanenbaum. Mark is the artistic director and driving force behind PACA, as well as Abbe's father. Since graduating from Collegiate Academy and Ithaca College, Abbe, 29, has resided in New York City for seven years, finding success as an actress. But she never had aspirations to be a playwright. Through her side job, however, Abbe found herself in a remarkable situation. Working with a client, a story began to emerge. "That's actually what started the whole thing," she explains. "I'm a personal organizer. I was helping her and we were finding all these letters."
At first glance, Abbe suggested that the papers be thrown out. What use were a couple dozen handwritten letters from the 1970s? The owner of the letters, known in the play as Roberta, balked at this completely and revealed what they were. Between 1970 and 1973, Roberta (portrayed by Betsy Butoryak) received handwritten personal accounts thanking her for her work in an underground New York City abortion clinic. In the years prior to Roe v. Wade, things were markedly different. The risks for women were much greater, and the social stigma that these women carried was nearly unthinkable. It's been more than 44 years since the landmark court case, and the issue of abortion still garners some of the most powerful reactions from groups on both sides. The stand-in for Abbe's character, known as Anne in the play (played by Jess Pierce), begins to realize that the world she lives in was massively shaped by women like Roberta. "It's really about Anne's journey of waking up to the realities of being a woman in America and today's society, and that she has a responsibility to keep moving the movement forward. To build on what's already been started."
The letters come to life, with different actors standing in for the original authors (Brit Soule, Jennifer Perry, Leslie Gordon Ford, and Amy Eisert Brotz all play multiple roles). Abbe explains that "in the beginning, when they start finding the letters, the younger woman doesn't hear the women who come out and recite their letters, and as the play progresses, the older woman helps her start questioning the status quo, essentially. She starts to hear them. She starts to wake up."
Using the actual letters as source material, the play tells these true, personal stories in the author's own words. Abbe admitted that "this was not something I set out to do, but the story was so compelling that someone had to do it." – Nick Warren
8 p.m. on April 21, 22, 28, 29; 2 p.m. on April 30 // 1505 State St., 2nd Floor // $12.50 // 434.0687, paca1505.com, or facebook.com/CommittedCitizen