Woman's trauma frames the pro-choice movement in 'Jane App' at Laurel’s Venus Theatre
By David Sturm
For Baltimore Sun Media Group|
Apr 03, 2019 | 12:00 PM
The survivor of a deadly abortion clinic bombing sits at a desk in her basement, her laptop open, her damaged psyche trying to focus on the task at hand.
“The hatred could easily have killed me,” she says.
What if she could go back in time to 1971, when the bombing happened, and prevent it? Or at least gain a better understanding of it?
A visitor arrives and a dialogue begins. Links between the past and present emerge. An excerpt of a documentary film about the pro-choice movement is shown.
Welcome to “Jane App,” a multimedia work being performed at Laurel’s Venus Theatre on four successive Fridays that began March 22.
The performance does not fit easy categorization. For one thing, each hour-long performance will be a little different. The shows will be live streamed and turned into podcasts.
“Jane App,” according to writer/director/performer Deborah Randall, is an experimental outing, or as she likes to call it, an “iteration.”
The “Jane” in the title is a direct reference to the Jane Collective, an underground movement in Chicago that provided abortion services from 1969 to 1973, a time when abortion was illegal in most states.
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Randall plays the main character, Reg, who volunteers as a support person at an abortion clinic for frightened, often abandoned clients at the end of their rope.
“I held their hands because no one else would,” she says.
Reg survived the bombing. The client whose hand she held did not.
The visitor to Reg’s lonely basement room is played by Tina Kumpel as an avatar of the Sixties.
“There’s danger, so much danger in the air,” the visitor says. “When we leave Pisces and enter Aquarius, I'll be ready.”
According to the famous song “Aquarius” from the show “Hair,” that’s when “peace will guide the planet.”
The film excerpt shown in the latter part of “Jane App” is from “She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry,” a 2014 documentary by Mary Dore about the early years of the women’s liberation movement. The history lesson from a half-century ago has clear implications for the here and now. In fact, the play references current Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, the murder of journalists in Annapolis and “witch hunts.”
“She's Beautiful” can be watched in its entirety on YouTube.
Randall said her research into the Jane phenomenon led her to two of the movement’s founders, Heather Booth and Eleanor Oliver.
“I wanted to take their stories and incorporate them into my vision,” Randall said.
As the four-performance series continues, the live part will get longer and the film screening will get shorter.
Randall acknowledges that this brainstorm of hers is a kind of “Frankenstein,” a collection of disparate parts that, together, comprise a humanistic response to the hostility toward women that persists even now.