Students in Penn’s Front Row Theatre Company and Quadramics Theatre Company are producing “Dry Land” — a play that features an abortion scene — and cited the recent overturning of Roe v. Wade and the current political climate as motivation.
The play was written by Ruby Rae Spiegel and centers around two high schoolers in Florida attempting to find a way to terminate an unwanted pregnancy, foiled by regulations and a hostile environment and attitudes toward abortion. The production will run until Nov. 4 at Houston Hall.
College senior Cassie Hartmann, who is the co-director of the show, said that she proposed putting on “Dry Land” at the end of May after it became clear in the leaked draft decision that the U.S. Supreme Court would soon overturn Roe v. Wade.
“I love theater, and I love doing theater that has a message and a purpose. I’d been looking for shows that could speak to one of the most pressing political issues at the time, and I really fell in love with this one,” she said.
College sophomore Ariana Frias, who is a producer and head of publicity for the show, echoed Hartmann in emphasizing the current political relevance of the show.
“I especially think that this is such a topical show, given our current political climate and what’s going on with our government and the media. It’s such an important time to tell this story,” Frias said.
College sophomore Lucy Gale, also a co-director of the show, spoke about the "challenging" nature of putting on the show.
“For instance, scene seven, where the abortion takes place, was challenging, because we wanted to be graphic and show the dangers of unsafe abortions without medical help, but since it was also in front of a live audience, the limit of what we could do was technically challenging,” Gale said.
Hartmann echoed this sentiment, adding that “it was definitely hard to navigate the more intense scenes of the show in a respectful way for both the actors and the audience.”
Frias said that she handles the logistical work behind the production and works on supporting the directors, the cast, and the crew to make sure everybody is in a safe environment and that the production runs smoothly.
“Especially in a show like “Dry Land,” it’s a huge priority to us that actors feel comfortable in this space,” she said.
“Dry Land” battles against the claims that abortion is only acceptable for certain exceptions, such as cases of rape or incest, according to Hartmann.
“Amy’s just a girl who happened to have sex with her boyfriend and she also deserves a safe and shame-free abortion,” she said.
For Gale, this show fulfills what she’s been looking for in a play due to the nature of the relationship between both female characters.
“What’s special about “Dry Land” is the relationship between Amy and Ester, which is really, really complex, and the depth of the characters,” Gale said. “I think that a lot of times in entertainment, women and female relationships in particular are portrayed as very surface-level, and fit into a stereotype, like mean or nerdy,” she added.
Several students have recently expressed to The Daily Pennsylvanian that the reversal of Roe v. Wade has been a major motivator to vote in the Nov. 8 midterm elections.