Monday, October 26, 2020

KEELY AND DU - A Fight for Women's Rights

By Erin Cronican, TSP Executive Artistic Director

This week we unveil our newest production, the Pulitzer-Prize nominated drama KEELY AND DU by Jane Martin. It’s a searing look at the blocking of women’s rights related to abortion, domestic violence, and the ability to control our own bodies. 

The play is being presented LIVE (via Zoom) Saturday, October 31 and Sunday, November 1, 2020 - 7pm Eastern, with a streamed recording November 3-7, 2020. Tickets are available here: - 100% of the proceeds are being donated to Reproductive Health Services, Planned Parenthood of the St Louis Region.

I have to admit, I was very tentative when Brandon (Walker - Producing Artistic Director) suggested that we do this piece. The play doesn’t pull any punches - it can be incredibly triggering for anyone who has experienced abortion, miscarriage, domestic violence, kidnapping, and not being believed by those who are charged with keeping you safe. I didn’t know if I had it in me to bring something so serious and important to the world when the world is already so fraught.

But this is exactly why this play is the right play, RIGHT NOW.

How did this event come to be?

It started when we sat down with our ensemble to talk about the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. For many of us, it was a devastating blow in an already trying time. What could we do as a theater company to honor her memory and take up the charge on issues that meant a lot to her legacy? With as helpless as many of us have felt to make any kind of difference, we contemplated what we could do to encourage action steps that we as concerned citizens could accomplish?

We started exploring different texts related to women’s rights, but kept coming back to KEELY AND DU. Once we made our selection and secured the licensing/rights, we began to look at what non-profit organizations we could partner with, not only for our Action Steps panel discussion, but also as the beneficiary of our RIPPLE FOR CHANGE AWARD. And I immediately thought of the work of Dr. Colleen McNicholas.

SIDEBAR; If you haven’t already, I highly recommend watching the documentary REVERSING ROE (2018) which is currently viewable on Netflix.

In this documentary we are introduced to Dr. McNicholas, an abortion advocate who is single-handedly changing the lives of women across the Midwest by providing abortion access to those who have none. The film talks about the journey of Roe vs Wade in the courts, and I wept multiple times while watching it. I was so inspired by the women who were profiled - including doctors, politicians, and filmmakers taking up the cause - that I immediately got onto Twitter and began to follow them: including US House Candidate @JillSchupp, Missouri State Senator @SenatorNasheed, US House Candidate @WendyDavis, filmmaker @RBraceySherman and Planned Parenthood Chief Medical Offer @DocMcNick. I wanted to know more and to be able to support their efforts.

Within 24 hours I received a notification that Dr McNicholas had followed me back, and I have to admit I fan-girled a little bit! Here is this incredible person who speaks on behalf of women on Capitol Hill, is interviewed by NPR, travels around 75% of the month to neighboring states to provide critical services to women in need, and puts her life on the line every day fighting for what she believes in. To have her following me on Twitter was and is incredibly humbling.

So when we decided to produce KEELY AND DU and were looking for someone to partner with, I immediately thought of her. I never dreamed that she would say yes - not only to being on our panel, but helping us connect with her employer, Planned Parenthood of the St Louis Region - the states ONLY clinic that provided crucial abortion services, so that they could be the beneficiary for this very special presentation.

This is when we fully realized the power we have as artists to make social justice change. Non-profit theater, hand-in-hand with non-profit medicine and advocacy, can move mountains.

A Personal Journey

I’m very honored to be playing Keely, a victim of spousal rape who becomes pregnant and upon going to get an abortion is kidnapped by a extremest right-to-life group intent on holding her until her baby comes to full term. As someone who has personally experienced sexual assault by an intimate partner and also one who has had my abortion rights challenged, the play hits a very deep chord for me. Furthermore, as a woman mired in health care hell as a metastatic breast cancer patient, I am very well aware of how tenuous my position is as a woman, as I’m constantly pushing to advocate for my own care and the care of other women like me.

The opportunity to use theater to express what life has been like for me, in a way that hopefully resonates with our audiences, means a great deal to me. It also means a great deal to me that we don’t just stop at creating art - The Seeing Place feels it’s crucial to explore “what’s next” once the curtain falls. What can we do, as individuals and as a collective society, to bring change? How do we bridge the gaps between ideologies? How do we make sure people’s rights are protected against extremism? How do we take daily action that makes a difference on a local, regional, and national level?

My first answer to that is, of course, to VOTE. Early voting is available in many states at the moment, building up to our official Election Day on November 3, 2020. Make sure your voice is heard.

My second answer is to keep educating yourself on the issues that matter to you. Read books and articles by experts, watch documentaries, have conversations with civic leaders, and never stop asking questions.

My third answer is to keep calling for empathy, in yourself and others. Just because you may not have experienced something doesn’t mean that it isn’t urgent or important. Imagine those people who rights are being taken away and/or ignored. How would you feel? Your empathy is a vital tool in making a difference.

The fourth answer is to buy your ticket to see KEELY AND DU - being presented LIVE (via Zoom) Saturday, October 31 and Sunday, November 1, 2020 - 7pm Eastern, with a streamed recording November 3-7, 2020. Tickets are available here: - and then register for the discussion panel with Dr. McNicholas.

The play stars Audrey Heffernan Meyer, Brandon Walker, Erin Cronican, Robin Friend and Olivia Hanna Hardin. Co-Directed by Erin Cronican and Brandon Walker, and produced by the members of The Seeing Place Theater Ensemble.