In preparation for Advocates for Youth’s world premiere production of Out of Silence: Abortion Stories from the 1 in 3 Campaign, I had a chance to speak with playwright Mary McKeown, author of YOU'RE NEVER TOO OLD TO MAKE A CHOICE, about her writing process, inspiration for the play, and the power of theatre to serve as a tool for social advocacy. Please enjoy this wonderful interview!
JACQUELINE LAWTON: Why was it important for you to be a part of Advocates for Youth’s Out of Silence: Stories from the 1 in 3 Campaign?
MARY MCKEOWN: I am a strong believer in a woman’s right to choose. When it comes to reproductive choices, we all have a story to tell. I am thrilled that I was given a chance to put on stage the women and stories who are part of the 1 in 3 campaign.
JL: Tell me about the play(s) that you wrote? What inspired it?
MM: I was inspired by two things—the wonderfully rich stories of real women on the 1 in 3 website and the personal histories of family and friends. In both, I was struck by how important the support of friendship is to women throughout their lives. My play is about two college friends who are now in their late 40s. It is a mashup of a several stories from the website with a dash of my life thrown in.
JL: What was it like to turn this story into a play? What was your process? What research, if any, did you do?
MM: The voices and needs of the women in my play were so compelling that, in a way, the play just wrote itself. Once I decided to write about two women who find themselves unexpectedly pregnant—one, Sharon, after years of fertility treatment and one, Ayisha, with two children in college and a grandchild on the way—it was easy to think of what they might say to each other. I love that Sharon is able to put aside her excitement at her own pregnancy to support Ayisha. We are not all cookie cutter women and our lives do not follow the same time tables. Good friends like Sharon and Ayisha recognize that.
JL: What role does theater have in advocacy work?
MM: Theatre is a great, maybe the best, way to tell powerful stories. In order for advocacy to be persuasive, it must align with our morals and ethics, convince our minds, and touch our hearts.
JL: What are you working on next? Where can we follow your work?
MM: I am currently working with young writers who are just finding their voices. It is so important to encourage the rising generation to articulate their beliefs and passions. I’m anxious to hear their stories.
I'm a playwright, dramaturg, and teaching artist. It is here where you'll find my queries and musings on life, theater and the world. My posts advocate for diversity, inclusion, and equity in the American Theatre and updates on my own work. Please enjoy!