The central image of this allegorical performance, written collectively by
Quenna Lené Barrett, Christabel Donkor, Danielle Littman, Jessamyn
Fitzpatrick, Clair Fuller, and Nik Zaleski and directed by Barrett and
Zaleski, is a 16-year-old woman named Jane Doe. She sits on a dock,
emptying the water out of a red aluminum canoe in preparation for a launch.
As the title makes clear, the canoe is her body, and her journey consists
of the many discoveries she makes and the changes she goes through when she
finds she is pregnant and has to decide between single teen motherhood or
terminating the pregnancy.
Yes, this is agitprop theatre. Remarkably, though, the creative team at For
Youth Inquiry, part of the Illinois Caucus for Adolescent Health, does a
terrific job of making this admittedly didactic work—which charts all the
obstacles a teen faces, both legal and psychological, when trying to get an
abortion on her own—engaging, and even entertaining.
Staging the piece in and around the abandoned Stearns Quarry in Palmisano
Park in Bridgeport, Barrett and Zaleski fill their show with eye-pleasing
spectacles—not the least of which is the sight of the protagonist canoeing
across the water—and moments of no-pressure audience participation (which
feel more than a little like mini breakout sessions at a workshop). Elena
Victoria Feliz makes a very likable and relatable Jane Doe; she’s equally
believable whether she’s paralyzed by doubt or standing her ground against
those who don’t agree with her choices. v