Controversial Title Belies Honest, Everywoman Play
Her mother hoped she’d never go into show business, but the daughter of well-known Australian actors Paula Duncan and John Orcsik did just that. Now Jessica Orcsik is producing and acting in a play that is creating pushback and controversy. Why? Simply because of its title. Lesley Reed reports.
Written, produced and acted by women, there’s a dark little comedy on its way, about the friendship between two working women who use wit and grit to battle their demons.
Amy Chaffee’s sixty minute play has a title that’s sure to make people (and perhaps the occasional censor) sit up and take notice wherever it goes, but despite this it has already played to audiences across the world.
Playwright Chaffee wrote Your Mother’s Vagina in liaison with the original United States cast members, with the play’s narrative derived from their real life experiences. After its initial run in Los Angeles, Rhombus Ensemble took the play for a 3-city tour of Europe. It played in Dublin then went on to the historic town of Ghent, Belgium. The ﬁnal European show was at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe at the historic Spotlite’s venue. It has since been performed in Lubbock, TX, US and has upcoming productions in New Zealand and Basel, Switzerland. Now it’s Australia’s turn.
Set in a Hollywood ‘Industry’ brasserie and told in three short scenes, two women discover friendship through sharing secrets of sexuality and fertility. They even find humorous release in missed motherhood.
Leila, a young starlet / bartender has a secret pregnancy that’s discovered by Sue Anne, part-time professor/part-time cocktail waitress. After challenging each other’s motives and morals, each woman sparks the other to make unexpected choices. With humor, love and brutal honesty, together they triumph over the Hollywood machine, lousy tips and terrible life choices.
Jessica Orcsik, daughter of well-known Australian actors, Paula Duncan and John Orcsik, is producer for J.O International Productions’ Australian tour of the play. Her mother always hoped Jessica wouldn’t follow the same career path, but here she is…steeped in a rather controversial show.
“Unfortunately there has been a huge amount of censorship attached to the production due to its controversial title,” Jessica said, “including advertising blockage from social media platforms, despite the actual content of the production. This of course is a reﬂection on the standards regarding inclusion and diversity and what society still deems appropriate.”
In truth, the play simply aims to inspire audiences with details of the trials and tribulations of reproduction, relationships, careers and motherhood.
I asked Jessica to tell me more about the issues the play’s title is causing for the production.
“Unfortunately the title has created an impact on audience attendance,” she said, “although for the most part people have laughed at the title, and so they should, there are others who keep asking, ‘Why is it named that way?’ ‘Can you change the name?’ This seems very strange to me considering we have all been in our mothers’ vaginas. That’s how we were brought into this world. Since when did the discussion of reproduction become so inappropriate? When we are kids we learn what our genitals are called and that’s really as simple as that.”
In addition to producing the show, Jessica Orcsik plays Leila in the production. Adelaide actor Heather Crawford performs as Sue Anne.
Jessica believes the play is a fine example of female-driven content. “This play is written, directed, produced by and stars women,” she said. “The stories of our female characters are true stories based on life experience. We spend close to sixty minutes on stage talking about all things related to being a woman; plus a lot of topics that people want to know about, including in-vitro fertilisation, egg harvesting, careers in the entertainment business vs being mothers, the obnoxiousness that still surrounds the entertainment business's view on women and women’s struggles in general.”
Playwright/Director/Co-producer, Amy Chaffee (pictured below) has been an actress and director in Chicago, New York and London. Between her studies under Stella Adler and later at The Old Globe, she was a founder and co-Artistic Director of Door Shakespeare (from 1994 - 97). Since 2000, she has lived in Los Angeles where she works in the Film/TV industry. Amy’s recent projects include her work with John Ridley in his movie about Jimi Hendrix, All is By My Side. Her coaching is also heavily featured in the boxing-love story, upcoming independent movie, Heart Baby. In her academic career, Amy is a professor at UCLA and makes regular contributions to VASTA, PAVA and ATHE conferences in the U.S. and internationally. Amy has produced and directed theatre since she was a teenager and Your Mother's Vagina is her ﬁfth produced play.
Chaffee has said, “The hardest, most genuine laughter I ever heard was between my mother and her friends when no men, nor children were around... when they could be unapologetically authentic and real with each other. Sitting at the top of the stairs, huddled with my best friend eavesdropping, when we should have been asleep, to our mothers spilling their guts to one another: crying, drinking, cracking brutal humor and laying out the unvarnished truths of their lives was the best theatre I knew growing up."
Producer Jessica Orcsik has thoughts on the future of the play.“I would like to see it performed in as many countries as possible,” she said. “I would also like to see the play rewritten for the screen. I think it would make an incredible film. It’s nice to watch two female characters, aged in their thirties, being so real and candid about their feelings and struggles. I feel young girls everywhere can really take a positive message from this, about their bodies, choices and futures. Judgement is everywhere and there is never a right way or right time to be a parent. Whatever you choose you should feel open to discuss your options, your fears and the logistics.
“The fact that social media has blocked the content as ‘inappropriate’ speaks volumes about where our society stands. With current issues all over the world, in the fight of right vs left, I think somehow we need to find a middle ground. We need to respect each other’s views and the right to voice them. I don't mind if people choose not to support our play, but audiences everywhere should know about it. Women should know about it. Young women especially. We are still fighting for equality in so many ways and although it may be small, this play stands as a great opportunity to continue the fight; in particular within the arts.”
Sounds intriguing, doesn’t it? So come on, Australia, affirm the hard work and talent of this all-woman independent production by flocking along.
WHERE AND WHEN
Sydney - March 25th @ 2.30 pm & 7.30 pm, NIDA Playhouse
Melbourne - March 26th @ 7.30 pm, Chapel Off Chapel
Adelaide - Postponed until April or May, Star Theatre, Details soon TBC