UMN alum produces in-person play centered around reproductive justice

“I With Things New Born” will begin performances on Oct. 30 at Off-Leash Art Box.

Rehearsal+photo+courtesy+of+Madeline+Wall

Jacob Badovski

Rehearsal photo courtesy of Madeline Wall

Meg Bishop

In hospitals today, people are often left to give birth alone in a room with a stranger due to COVID-19 and hospital visitor restrictions. One former Gopher set out with her theater degree and a passion for reproductive justice to share the stories of birth givers during the pandemic.

University of Minnesota 2020 alum Madeline Wall wrote, directed and produced the forthcoming play “I With Things New Born.” The play is set to run Oct. 30-Nov. 8 at Off-Leash Art Box. The seven in-person performances will run 45 minutes with no intermission.

The production lays out the story of a young woman giving birth during a time of world chaos, where she finds that she must have a stranger deliver her baby.

Wall’s piece,“I With Things New Born,” stems from Shakespeare’s piece, “Measure for Measure.” The main character conceives a child out of wedlock and is imprisoned. According to Wall, sharing the stories of childbirth can be a learning experience for all.

“Birth is a universal experience, so I think it can be a lens through which we understand a lot of the big questions about what it means to be human,” Wall said.

There are only two cast members in the play, Wall and Renèe Schwarz, a University of Minnesota fourth-year student. Schwarz is the lead role in the two-person production. Her character, Juliet, gives birth, with Wall as her struggling midwife.

The play originally had an eight-person cast and was set to hit the stage last spring, but because of COVID-19, was postponed to this fall — a blessing in disguise according to Wall and Schwarz.

“I think this story is really important especially during this time and talking about women giving birth during a pandemic,” Schwarz said.

“We need to listen to the stories of birth givers all the time, but especially now,” Wall said.

Reproductive justice and the stories of pregnancy are the driving force behind her current production.

“When we decide that a birth giver’s voice is worth listening to, then all these stories come to light and we learn a lot about what needs to be done in order to achieve reproductive justice,” Wall said.

Recently Wall started “The Birth Play Project,” a new Twin Cities theater initiative. Her plan is to have other productions join the organization in hopes of further sharing stories about reproductive justice.

According to University of Minnesota alum Seth Campbell — someone who Wall would regularly bounce ideas off of during the production’s creation — the play not only reflects Wall’s ability, but also that of the theater program at the University.

“I think [the play] really shows what the theatre program at the U is capable of producing,” he said.

Wall’s production will be the last play at Off-Leash Art Box before the venue permanently closes its doors. But, for those who couldn’t go to the show, a video of the production will be available to stream on the Birth Play Project Facebook page on a pay-what-you-can basis beginning on Nov. 8.