“I’ve never ever felt the ‘cluck’ – a word we use in Australia to describe that unexplainable feeling in your body that you want to have a child,” says Jacinta Yelland, Aussie-born Philadelphia actor and one of co-artistic directors of inFLUX Theater Collective.
“Over the last few years, I have teetered from not wanting to have children to wanting to have children for various reasons,” the Mt Airy resident says, pondering, “How could I bring a child into this world knowing their life would be horrendous due to climate change…but what about when my husband and I are old and have no one to take care of us?
“In two months, I turn 36 – which if I got pregnant would be called a geriatric pregnancy – another reason to hesitate before having kids – and my biological clock is telling me I need to make a decision NOW before it’s too late,” she says.
Along with Christine Octavia Shaw and Jacqueline Libby, her fellow co-leads and artistic directors, Yelland is working through the question of having children – and is using her artistic platform to do it – in their aptly titled upcoming production, “The Choice.” The team says the show will be highly interactive and allow audience members to weigh in and contribute their own perspectives on the topic.
“‘The Choice’ is very personal and important to me. It puts my decision-making process out in the open – my fears, concerns, desires and dreams – all of it,” Yelland says.
“I hope that by sharing with the audience all the raw and honest details of my experience deciding whether or not to enter motherhood, I and my ensemble members will empower others to also share about their experiences and listen, see and support other women as they face this life-changing decision.”
The trio met in 2017 while completing the Pig Iron Theater Company’s MFA program and while collaborating, discovered they hold wildly divergent ideas about having children. One conversation on the ethics of reproduction in the era of climate change turned so heated that they shelved the topic until 2020, when they started their theater company. Now they’re grappling with the issue head on, with “The Choice” as the first in a series of productions about their evolving relationships towards motherhood.
“I have always wanted kids. I can’t quite explain it and I usually hate just calling it ‘maternal instinct’ but I’ve always felt it was basically a magical superpower to create new life and knew I’d have kids,” says Christine Octavia Shaw, who lives in Fishtown. “But despite really wanting this thing, I’ve always been fearful of the reality – how can I possibly have kids and maintain a career as an artist? What are the financial realities of this choice? How do I navigate romantic relationships with the want for children looming?
“I’ve often found it really hard to talk about these things,” she says, finding herself “terrified” of the potential judgement from others and the challenge of balancing career and motherhood. “Would my identity suddenly be reduced from Christine the artist to Christine the mom? It’s really important for me in this show to voice these fears – to share that even if I know what I want my choice to be, it isn’t easy and asks so much of women.”
She finds the timing of the piece to be not only extremely relevant to the three of them, but to the zeitgeist. The workforce is increasingly hostile to working parents and more pressure involved in parenting Shaw says, and yet, “we see the news responding to it with reports about the ‘baby bust.’”
At 25, Jacqueline Libby is the youngest of the crew. She says she hadn’t really thought about having kids before this project. “Working on this material, talking with Christine and Jacinta, and the many other people facing this decision, I realized I still don’t want to be thinking about it,” the Pennsport resident says. “I have decided to decide later, and that is a choice that is equally as valid as choosing yes or no!
“But what we don’t see much of is space for really honest discussion of the realities,” she adds.
“As we’ve talked with women while building this show, we’ve so often heard women just 15 or 20 years older than us lamenting that the choice was never really a choice for them – they didn’t have space to openly and honestly discuss the realities of deciding to become a mother.
“And even with women our own age, we find the conversations are starting to happen but are often steeped in judgment.”
“The Choice,” they believe, will be a part of changing that conversation. “In speaking about our experiences, we hope to open space for others,” says Yelland, “empowering them to talk and share about their experiences, so we can create a community that sees, supports and understands each other as these choices become more and more difficult in today’s world!”
“The Choice” runs Sept. 9-18 and tickets went on sale Aug. 13. No one turned away for lack of funds so email firstname.lastname@example.org. Tickets are available at pafringe.secure.force.com/.
Have a question for Dr. Timaree? Send an email to email@example.com.