MS. REBECCA SHEIR
Sometimes, settling a score calls for a little legal intervention, in other words, the courts. A new play at the Catholic University of America focuses on a rather distinctive custody dispute. "She Said/She Said" was written by Rebecca Gingrich Jones, sister-in-law of a certain former speaker of the house. WAMU education reporter Kavitha Cardoza recently attended a rehearsal of the play and she says while the piece weaves together theology, politics and, of course, law, at heart it's a story about love, a breakup and a battle for a baby.
MS. KAVITHA CARDOZA
The play closely mirrors a real life case where a lesbian couple joined in a civil union in Vermont had a child. A few years later, they broke up and the birth mother moved to Virginia where she renounced homosexuality and became an Evangelical Christian.
MS. REBECCA GINGRICH-JONES
I'm Rebecca Gingrich-Jones. I wrote "She Said/She Said." I'm a third-year MFA student at Catholic University. I always write about things that are personal to me in a way or I'm passionate about. I myself am married to a woman and so when I heard about custody battles that were more challenging for lesbian couples because the law treats them differently, that really struck a chord with me.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE 1
My client was married to the biological mother of the child while the child was born and conceived and therefore has presumptive parental rights.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE 2
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE 1
Except that there is no legal precedent for same-sex parents to be granted presumptive parental rights.
The play is particularly timely because Maryland is considering legalizing same-sex marriages.
MS. CASEY CAMPBELL
I'm Casey Campbell and I am the director for "She Said/She Said". A personal friend of mine was living with a woman in Maryland where they don't yet have gay marriage sanctions. They had adopted a child and she had a very personal close relationship with her child. When the two women's relationship ended, she lost custody of her child because of the laws in Maryland. I think the beauty of this script is that someone watching it isn't feeling that we're preaching to one choir or the other, but rather presenting the pain and suffering on both sides of the equation.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE 2
She's not his mother, I am. She's not related to him in any way. I don't know how many times I have to say this. I am his mother. I changed his diapers. I rocked him to sleep. I fed him in the middle of the night.
On one side, you have the mother who believes she's legally in the right. On the other, there's the birth mother who believes she answers to a higher power. Early in the artistic process, the student actors playing opposing sides of this relationship were not allowed to rehearse with one another. The director wanted them to be passionately and authentically committed to their character's beliefs. And that's what some students say made them want to seek common ground.
MR. PHIL DICKERSON
I'm Phil Dickerson. I'm a second-year MFA acting candidate at Catholic University. For me, it's more about the relationship between church and state and rather than putting up walls in between the two. Like the play, like, we've all formed team Kristen (ph) and team Jackie (ph) . Where is the middle ground between the two and how can we create communication and converse about our differences?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE 3
And according to Ohio's defense of Marriage Act in the Ohio Constitution, which is supported by the federal Defense of Marriage Act...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE 3
And just what are they defending, your closed-minded view of faith?
My client does not have to give full faith and credit to the marriage performed in Massachusetts.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE 4
I can't believe this. Where is Daniel? Why isn't he here? Where is he?
He's with his grandmother.
Perhaps the most surprising part for the audience is that university officials are allowing the play to be performed on campus at all. Occasionally, the choice for student productions has clashed with what the administration thinks is appropriate. "Angels in America," Tony Kushner's award-winning play about homosexuality and AIDS was performed off campus after university officials wanted to either edit it or severely restrict access to the production. And "The Vagina Monologues" couldn't be performed on campus so instead, a reading was held in a nearby bar. Faculty members say "She Said/She Said" is about much broader themes that need to be discussed.
MR. PATRICK TUITE
I'm Patrick Tuite and I'm head of the MA program in the Department of Drama at Catholic University. On our stages, in our buildings, we should have a dialogue that is healthy, a way to communicate between different groups and the church. And we feel confident that that can happen here in a way that honors everyone involved. In the case of this particular play, the concern is how do we as a nation in different states and different communities define what is a family? And if we can't talk about what is a family at the Catholic University of America, then we're failing somehow.
I just want what's best for my son.
It's the reason students are taking the stage to put that conversation in the spotlight. I'm Kavitha Cardoza.
"She Said/She Said" runs through February 27th. We have more information on our website, metroconnection.org
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