Polarity’s Darren Callahan interviewed playwright Lisa Rosenthal and filed this report:
The harvest at the center of Lisa Rosenthal’s new work premiering at Polarity Ensemble Theatre March 25th is not one of wheat, soy, or fruit – it’s one of children conceived using in vitro fertilization.
“When people go for fertility counseling, they’re often desperate and vulnerable,” explains Ms. Rosenthal. “And a fertility doctor attracts patients, in part, by his or her success rate. How does this equation affect the integrity of this doctor-patient relationship? Recommended procedures? Numbers of blastocysts implanted? I took this one step further and thought: what would happen if after too little success, too much success was achieved? What are the unintended consequences of hyper-focusing one’s life on producing children?”
When central character Joan of The Good Harvest finds herself desperate – caught between the reality of several miscarriages and her own obsession with a lost child she considered “her destiny” – she and her husband Davis embark on a too-successful fertilization that results in a high-risk multiple pregnancy. Shown in flashbacks and flash-forwards between Joan’s life and the lives her surviving children, we learn of the deaths and the guilt that haunt her.
“Joan makes choices that go badly through no fault of her own. One of these is over the option of selective reduction,” remarks Rosenthal. “The emotional consequences surrounding a choice like that can be just as devastating as whether or not to end a pregnancy.”
Rosenthal is aware of the likelihood of a real debate following her fictional ones, but is quick to emphasize this is not inherently a “topic play.” Its inspiration, from the “what-if” scenario, has evolved into a rich character portrait of Joan, her neglected children, and their distant father. “So many women have faced infertility issues during their lives that many women will be able to relate to the hunger and drama surrounding Joan and Davis’s procreative choices and emotional dilemmas,” predicts Rosenthal.
When asked about her process or how she is able to find such unique facets in her characters, she admits that her secrets are research and interviews. “When working on a play that involves a life experience, I pick and choose intriguing facts or choices people make and then create the rest.”
Rosenthal is thrilled to be working again with Chicago’s Polarity Ensemble Theatre, hot off a successful run with A Streetcar Named Desire and named “Best Emerging Theatre Company” by the Chicago Reader in 2008. Rosenthal herself is two-time participant in the long-running Dionysos Cup, a festival of new plays presented annually by the troupe. In fact, The Good Harvest took home the 2008 prize.
Chicago playwright Rosenthal has been a recognized name in the Chicago theatre scene for years, particularly because she founded the Vet Art Project (www.vetartproject.com) and is a resident playwright at Chicago Dramatists. Her plays have been produced in several parts of the country and she is the recipient of several playwriting awards and fellowships including an Illinois Arts Council Special Assistance Grant for the development of The Good Harvest, and a Puffin Foundation Grant and Illinois Humanities Council Grant for the Vet Art Project. Artistic Director Richard Engling will direct the production of The Good Harvest.
The Good Harvest, along with 2007’s Ghost Watch, 2009’s The White Airplane and the Dionysos Cup series demonstrate that Polarity remains committed to the development and production of new works. Polarity’s slogan is “to bring new life to the classics and new work to life.”
Performances of The Good Harvest will take place at the Polarity Ensemble Theatre in Wicker Park at the Josephinum Academy, 1500 N Bell, Chicago, March 23 through May 2, 2010. Showtimes are Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm, and Sundays at 3pm. Press Opening ($19) Thursday, March 25. Premiere Night & Celebration ($35) Friday, March 26th . Regular performances: $19 . $15 seniors over 65. $10 students with ID. $10 previews March 23 & 24. All tickets are general admission. No performance April 4th, Easter Sunday. Tickets may be purchased online by clicking here or by calling 1-800-838-3006>