From College Park to Ukraine’s Orange Revolution, A woman’s Journey for Donor Eggs
Helena Cavendish de Moura
The act of conception and its aftermath triggers a revolution in a woman’s mind and body.
Describe physical changes during pregnancy to an extra-terrestrial and they’ll think you’re describing transfiguration: our organs are rearranged, we become musculoskeletally and emotionally elastic beings enwrapped in a web of varicose, in a constant state of lachrymosity. To little 8-year-old Lenora zigzagging with hyperactivity in her parent’s brick College Park fixer-upper in her brick College Park mansion, that physical morphing is like super hero magic, an accepted part of her programming and play schemes in a universe of talking dolls and other pretend parenting paraphernalia. Later in life, Lenora will discover that she is like 12% percent of women in America of childbearing age and that pregnancy is not a given. Like a growing number of American women, the full-grown woman will pour all her financial and emotional resources into reaching that elusive and emotionally draining goalpost of becoming pregnant. More and more, getting pregnant is less and less of a choice for many as fertility rates continue to plummet. It is certainly not an option for the middle class as treatments become financially prohibitive.
Now bring together the aforementioned anxieties, desires and obstacles of modern Americans and fertility issues, pepper them with class-struggles, ADHD and wrap them into a 5’5” adult Lenora and send her on a train to the Ukraine to get donor eggs during a revolution and you have High Risk, Baby! a hilariously honest discussion about fertility, identity and what it means to be a “real” mother. You’ll hear one of the most honest and inner and outer dialogues, as well as a surrounding chorus of puppet voices with some strong opinions, while we navigate the tricky fault lines between a woman’s identity and her fertility. It is also the true story of actress and Push Push Arts co-founder Shelby Hofer and the distances she traveled in her quest to get pregnant with her husband, actor and director Tim Habeger. I sat down with Hofer after watching the play in Push Push Art’s new space in College Park. Her energy is unstoppable, and Hofer is, excuse the pun, impregnated with ideas about working more with women-teams to translate the feminine world.
“The whole play is filled with feminine energy, Hofer. “I started out with a creative Doula. We laughed so hard and we knew it’d work,” as she described Kali Quinn, a fellow art director who worked on the earlier stages of the surreal cosmology of a woman child who is jonesing for a baby. The multi- award-winning actress who is in fact from College Park, counted on some of Atlanta’s top talent to bring together all the emotional pieces strewn around from her personal story. Directed by Ellen McQueen, the play also features the work of New York-based actor, director and puppeteer Ariel Francoueur as the puppeteer, known for experimental and feminist theatre, and also going through IVF herself.
Hofer, whose mental and physical acrobatics on stage seamlessly connects all the dots and associations, from her hyperactive inner life as a child surrounded by her mad, alter-ego dolls to the 16th Century forceps used in the Ukraine clinic, said she believes in a certain “theatre magic” that takes place, especially when she joins forces with other creative women. That was the secret of bringing together such a rich tapestry of mediums and concepts, from film, to puppeteering, from cartoons and visual collages to sound, to finally tell her story, which at the end, is resolved with ease, love, simplicity.
“As women we are wired to handle a lot,” Hofer said. “You are always thinking in the future and the past. Acting, though, brings me 100 percent to the present.”
This is not a women’s play, Hofer said. It’s one fertility path for certain would-be parents of any gender. She said she is fascinated by the reaction by different genders to Lenora’s travails. The Push Push audience, when called by an 8-year old Lenora to answer questions about fertility and parenting as part of the play, bring a rich array of experiences and perspectives whether from a LGBTQ or heterosexual gaze.
The fast-paced, comedic monologue is 75 minutes and never misses a beat. A heart-warming, tender moment awaits us at the end. Ultimately, the play has a lot to do with taking risks and what she called “dancing with the universe.” Don’t be surprised or ashamed if, at the end, you might find yourself sniffling in unison with all genders and sexual orientations for a kind of love is somewhere inside all of us.
”Dancing With the Universe”
Paper doll/photography art work by Rob Nixon for High Risk, Baby!