Interview by Catalina Rojas for Interdram.
July 09, 2023.
I think that showing an accompanied abortion humanizes it. Thus, seen as something so hard, it can be appreciated from a loving perspective. And that is necessary, you always hear stories of those who have aborted alone, without tell anyone, or they have had to endure psychological stress and very heavy judgments for their decision. And it is true that some endure a lot of physical pain or emotional wounds. But I did not want to write from there, from pain, I wanted to write something from love and the opening.
On July 19, the play HERMANA will premiere at the Camilo Henríquez Theater, staging the reunion of two sisters around the abortion of one of them. The author was part of a writing residency in Nau Ivanow, Barcelona, to finish writing and will soon travel with the show to Palma de Mallorca, Spain to appear at FiraB!. Here she tells us about the reasons, inspirations and searches that led her to develop this proposal.
Ana Lopez Montaner. Photo: Daniel Corbillón.
What leads you to investigate, write and direct a work that brings to the scene especially the issue of abortion, but also motherhood, parenting, reproductive rights, among others?
For me, the work is a reunion between two sisters, who, from a broken bond, go to a stage of repair, to form a new family. The work shows what separated them and how they begin to get closer again. It is a family bond that was broken in the past due to immaturity and fear. Both sisters have a common childhood, but since they separated over time they differed. When they meet again, it is difficult for them to recognize each other, but they need each other. It is difficult for them to understand each other and they criticize each other, but they also have a common memory that means that no one else knows them the way they know each other. They also have a maternal inheritance that they carry with difficulty and they have to see what they do with it.
Abortion and motherhood are situations in which they are now, in their present and that generate conflict for them, they urgently need to help each other, because in a profound way one is ideal to help the other, but first they have to make something of your relationship.
I put abortion in because in this conflictive and intimate sister communication, it sparks real controversy between them. So is motherhood. This allowed me to enter into the contradictions of each one, how consistent their beliefs are with their actions, and the acceptance of their own inconsistencies.
We know that motherhood, chosen or not, entails a tremendous responsibility. I imagine how hard it must be to convince yourself to be a mother, or to accept motherhood without being able to question it, or because there is no other option. Also being a mother and not having enough help or feeling alone for whatever reason. This submission is very violent and appears in the work.
How is the book Aborto libre", compiled by the Chilean Karen Glavic, and "A book of martyrs" linked? Americans”, by the American Joyce Carol Oates, in the creation of the work? What about them and others in this staging?
They were books that I read in my dramaturgical creation process. In them I found inspiration and strength to write. Free Abortion, Materials for the struggle and discussion in Chile, is a compilation of very recent researchers, philosophers, anthropologists, historians, pre-pandemic, which gives an overview very complete of the current situation, but also the history of abortion in our country. To all who are interested, I recommend it one hundred percent.
On the other hand, the novel by Joyce Carol Oates gave me a different perspective, as it takes place in the United States, and shows the world of abortion clinics, something totally unknown in our reality, and its opposite path, the iron fight of the Christian church against them. It begins by recounting how an abortion doctor is assassinated by a religious fanatic. It is a great book and I am very grateful to the friend who gave it to me. Also another one that I really liked is The Annie Ernaux Event. It was beautiful to discover it, and I was surprised to see that it had been an autofiction, an experience from so many years ago by the author herself. Another friend told me that Annie had been vilified when she posted it.
In my writing process I also wanted my drafts to be read and commented on by different actresses, colleagues and friends. And also strangers in a residence that I did in Barcelona, where I did a reading and I was finishing writing it. That is to say that I was nourished and accompanied with many feedbacks. Thanks to them I was able to find my text. All these books and methodologies are in the spirit of my work with Hermana.
Photo Sister work. In the photo: Violet Molyneux. Photo: Daniel Corbillón
Why do you seek to address abortion through accompaniment?
As I told you, the work arises from the intimate complexities of the characters around the decision to be a mother, so I wanted the work to be a global accompanying action. I believe that you have to accompany yourself whatever, given the case, you choose to do. Do not leave alone a woman who needs an abortion, nor one who has become a mother.
I found out about abortion escorts by chance, I was attracted by a story I read, I think on the BBC, where they told about a woman who made a living accompanying women who went to abortion clinics alone. She listened to them and gave a kind of friendship without judgment, for a fee. I was moved and I began to search if they existed in Chile and indeed, I found and began to talk to one on Instagram. She agreed to be interviewed, I paid her as if I had been one of her patients, and she showed me what her job was like. I found him so unique, his story and his contribution to society, that I decided that one of the characters would be an abortion doula. I also found natural support methods with medicinal plants, books on which herbs are used for what, and I incorporated it into the work, balancing the mention of the chemical around the pills that are used.
An empathetic and active community is needed in accompaniment, of mothers, of children, of all those who care for and I think that it will be a long time before this is understood, because I still perceive speeches such as, “it is your child, it is you responsibility”, “sacrifice”, “get by as you can”, or one that I hate: “this is what it's like to be a mother!” which translates to "endure everything and be happy". Another classic is "get together with others who are mothers", when in truth I would love for there to be reciprocity between communities without children and with children. And that means valuing and validating children, not just those in your family. For this reason, one of the characters in the play is a kindergartner, the one who needs to have an abortion.
Deep down, I believe that accompanying each other is fundamental and an action of love and rebellion.
Photo Sister work. In the photo: Violeta Molyneux and Javiera Mendoza. Photo: Daniel Corbillón
What is there in that dynamic and action that you think is relevant to show from that space?
I think showing an accompanied abortion humanizes it. Thus, seen as something so hard, it can be appreciated from a loving perspective. And that is necessary, you always hear stories of those who have aborted alone, without telling anyone, or have had to endure psychological stress and very heavy trials for their decision. And it is true that some endure a lot of physical pain or can be left with emotional wounds for a long time, because the social response can be very prejudiced. But I didn't want to write from there, from pain, I wanted to write something from love and openness. That is why I was moved by the marches for free abortion, because they were a massive gathering of acceptance of a problem that came out of the private and intimate, even secret, to the streets and shouting. If it weren't for the company of friends, mothers, sisters, many would not be able to exercise their right to decide, or would do so in worse conditions.
On the other hand, outside the family bond, it is women's groups that provide what is necessary so that other women can choose. They are private organizations, NGOs, networks, doulas, which provide that support that allows whoever needs it and without asking for any reason and regardless of anything, to access it. They advise, accompany, give space and deliver information and also inputs, not only in Chile.
Photo Sister work. In the photo: Violeta Molyneux and Javiera Mendoza. Photo: Daniel Corbillón
Why do you think it is important to stage a play about abortion in the socio-political context we live in today in Chile?
Recent history has mutated rapidly. First the great mobilizations of the green tide arose, everything was going in crescendo, the environment was very favorable to changes with visible advances, such as the fact that the past and rejected Constituent Assembly recognized reproductive rights, and included abortion. Almost in parallel in the United States, the Supreme Court repealed this right and many clinics were closed, but also many feminist social organizations began to mobilize to contain the situation and provide pills to those who needed help. After the rejection in Chile, there was a tremendous setback, because as everyone knows, conservatives do not support this right to be constitutional. It is very impressive for bad, to see how this issue is played politically, there is a documentary on Netflix that explains it masterfully, Roe Case: abortion in the United States, where they show how the ideological mutates, according to who must be convinced to win elections. If they need votes from conservative communities, then the candidate of the day speaks out against it and promises a ban. Abortion is used to manipulate politically and unfortunately it is played unscrupulously with this, it is a very powerful tool, especially when it is taken to an emotional terrain and the expressions to characterize it are horrifying, because in this way a total rejection is generated, in addition to consecrating a social stigma. In addition, below it is manifested that the body of women belongs to others and that there are limits; of politicians, laws, beliefs, scientists, when abortion is one of the oldest in the world and has always been part of the biography of families. Somehow, what bothers about freedom over the pregnant body is that it threatens the mandate of motherhood, where the idea of the family is anchored. Without mothers, there is no possibility of sustaining the construction of society as we know it, based on families organized by gender roles. Giving up the possibility of accessing an abortion, without justification, that is, without any cause involved, freely, is for some the end of the world, therefore impossible. We are facing a huge setback.
Photo Sister work. In the photo: Violeta Molyneux and Javiera Mendoza. Photo: Daniel Corbillón.
What message are you trying to communicate through this work? Any message to society, women, feminism?
Motherhood is a free decision. Or it should always be, it is something very personal. We are contradictory, and these issues and their decisions are complex. Nothing is that simple. Therefore also respect. The autonomy of pregnant bodies does not legally exist. They are only truly autonomous in hiding. You can't do what you think is best with your body and your life in this country. And that seems to me a retrograde contempt. All bodies should have autonomy and protection, in all aspects of their lives.
SISTER art sheet
Dramaturgy and direction: Ana López Montaner
Cast: Violeta Molineux and Javiera Mendoza
Design: Flavia Ureta and Camila Rebolledo
Music: Príncipe Mapuche
Photos: Daniel Corvillón.
Press: Fogata Cultura.
Performances from Wednesday to Saturday from July 19 to 29, 2023.
Presale until July 18 at $3,500
General value $6,000
Tickets at www.ticketplus.cl
Camilo Henríquez Theater, Amunátegui in front of Torre Entel, Metro Moneda.