Stage & Dance

‘The Abortion Monologues’ seeks to ‘break down taboos’, not get political

Stacie Sexton speaks about the Abortion Monologues

Abortion Monologues artistic director Stacie Sexton speaks about the inspiration for the upcoming shows at Cosmic Charlie's in Lexington.
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Abortion Monologues artistic director Stacie Sexton speaks about the inspiration for the upcoming shows at Cosmic Charlie's in Lexington.

When Stacie Sexton first thought about writing a theatrical piece on abortion, she wanted to break the cultural silence about the procedure itself, rather than reflects its fraught politics.

That was two years ago. Since then, numerous states, including Kentucky, have passed laws that essentially ban the procedure in hopes of triggering a Supreme Court decision that will overturn Roe v. Wade. That 1973 decision that found the Fourteenth Amendment’s “right to privacy” protects a pregnant woman’s choice to have an abortion.

“It’s much worse now ... It’s still incredibly rare for people to feel safe enough to tell their stories,” said Sexton, a Whitesburg native who now lives in Lexington. “I wanted to talk about my story freely, but also give space to other people to tell theirs.”

So she started gathering stories about abortion, and her play, “The Abortion Monologues” was born. Modeled on “The Vagina Monologues,” which cataloged women’’s stories of sex, reproduction, body image, assault, sex work and other topics through the eyes of different women. “The Abortion Monologues” is a more narrow topic, but Sexton says she has tried to collect stories that explore all sides of abortion, from her own at Kentucky’s last remaining abortion clinic in Louisville, to a woman whose family forced her to undergo an abortion because of their family’s shame at unwed motherhood.

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Abortion Monologues production manager Kacy Johnson, left, and artistic director Stacie Sexton, both of Lexington. The first show debuted in 2017 and now the second will run for two nights at Cosmic Charlie’s starting June 19. Alex Slitz aslitz@herald-leader.com

The first “Abortion Monologues” debuted in 2017 with six actors telling stories about abortion. Some of the actors told their own stories, some told the stories of others. Sexton, and creative director Kacy Johnson were then overwhelmed with more people wanting to tell their stories.

“What we’ve found is that when people went through the process (of the abortion), they felt very much alone,” Johnson said. “They couldn’t find someone who was willing to talk about it, or people who wouldn’t admit they’d had one, too. The stigma is that strong. We’re reaching out to say we’ve been there, and you’re not alone.”

The second round will be performed twice on June 19 and 20 at Cosmic Charlies at 8 p.m.

This time around, for example, the play tells the story of Nettie Rose, the grandmother of one of the participants who lived in Pennsylvania with five children in the 1950s. She got pregnant again. Unable to get a legal abortion, she attempted to give herself one with a bicycle pump and died. The children were split up, some sent to family in Kentucky, and the five siblings never really saw each other again.

“Sixty years later that family is still feeling the effects of that moment,” Sexton said. “The story is short but intense.”

Although the politics of abortion hover in the background of every performance, Sexton and Johnson say the play is about reality rather than the distortions of heated rhetoric surrounding abortion that many people see in the media. Instead of crowds of pro-choice and anti-abortion protesters who face off outside abortion clinics, the play wants to focus on the woman whose face is covered with a coat as she makes her way inside. Maybe if an audience member heard her story, they could understand more about an issue that has roiled this country for so many years.

“We want to lift up those marginalized voices,” Sexton said. “The overarching goal to connect people on this issue and break down the taboos.”

If you go

The Abortion Monologues

When: 8 p.m. on June 19 and June 20

Where: Cosmic Charlie’s, 105 W. Loudon Ave. Admission: $8, $5 with a student ID.

Call: 859-475-6096 Online: cosmic-charlies.com to buy tickets online.

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