As a part of Sexual Assault Awareness Week, Women’s Action Coalition brought Honest Accomplice Theater to campus to put on their production of “The Birds and the Bees: Unabridged” on Tuesday April 12. Directors Maggie Keenan-Bolger and Rachel Sullivan introduced the show, explaining that it was written through the process of devising—instead of starting with a script, they took a survey of over 2,000 people in order to write a poignant story about women and transgender people facing struggles with identity and sexuality.
Told through seemingly disconnected scenes, the show conveys the stories of eight individuals trying to overcome a personal issue. The play opens in the waiting room of the gynecologist office of Dr. Green—played by Riti Sachdeva. Three patients—portrayed by Lindsay Griffin, Ashleigh Awusie and Holly Sansom—sit in seats waiting for their appointments. It’s a mystery to the audience as to why each of these characters are waiting, but as the play unfolds, it’s learned that each character is battling a different issue.
Linda’s character—played by Cat Fisher—represents the struggle between age and sexuality. Linda is 64 years old and since she let her hair go gray, she’s been treated as though she’s invisible. Taking advantage of this, she shoplifts a few things from a clothes store, including a bustier.
The show also explores a challenge that many people in the LGBTQ+ community go through: coming out to their parents. Emerson—played by Maybe Burke—faces this when telling their mom Jean—played by Meggan Dodd—that they’re neither a boy nor a girl, but something “in between.”
The production uses cardboard boxes to illustrate this concept. Two boxes symbolizing a binary are presented—non-sexual versus sexual and kinky versus vanilla, for example—and then a machine scans a person and places them in one of the two boxes. When Emerson is faced with boxes labeled “Man” and “Woman,” the machine reports an error and places them in neither box.
Emerson is able to step outside this gender binary, constructing themself a new box—“Person.” Throughout the show, Emerson implores Jean to use their correct pronouns and to normalize introducing her own pronouns when meeting someone for the first time. Jean struggles with this at first, but then recognizes how important it is to both the safety of her child and the safety of all trans and non-binary people.
At the end of the play, the characters in the waiting room reveal why they are at the gynecologist. Griffin’s obstacle was possibly the most poignant, as she was there as a victim of sexual assault.
Keenan-Bolger explained that she and Sullivan struggled with how to deal with sexual assault in the show. “We didn’t want to portray sexual assault on stage,” Keenan-Bolger said. “We think that sometimes that can have the effect of reinforcing the rape culture where we start to normalize it.” They ultimately decided to portray it through a moving scene with the whole cast, including Griffin’s character silently screaming.
“The Birds and the Bees: Unabridged” did an excellent job exploring the problems that women and non-binary individuals face in intersection with their other identities, while still putting a humorous spin on difficult situations.