Written in 1972, Birth and After Birth has had a unique gestation: the playwright didn’t release the play until 2006. The exceptionally lengthy revision process has imbued the play with the social attitudes of child-rearing and career that evolved in the later 20th century. The Apple family views their four-year-old son as their pride and joy, and yet his imposing stature (the character is played by a fully-grown man) allows him a specific dominion over their lives that any parent would recognize. The Freeds are career couple with unending freedom but are concerned that they may be missing out by not having children. These two couples clash in a conflict of social expectations and pressures within an absurdist style that is distinct to Tina Howe’s work.
“Birth and After Birth confronts head-on the social pressure women feel to have children and successful careers,” states Director Julie Moriarty. “We meet two families that represent both ends of the spectrum: the Apples are consumed by the task of raising their child, while the Freeds are dedicated to their careers. In a clash of ideals, each couple seeks to undermine the other couple’s lifestyle, all while celebrating the birthday of the Apple’s son.”
Howe’s plays include The Nest, Birth and After Birth, Museum, The Art of Dining, and Painting Churches. Among her many awards are an Obie for Distinguished playwriting, a Tony nomination for Best Play, an Outer Circle Critics Award, a Rockefeller Grant, two N.E.A. Fellowships, a Guggenheim Fellowship, an American Academy of Arts and Letters Award in Literature, the Sidney Kingsley Award, the New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award, two honorary degrees and the William Inge Award for Distinguished Achievement in the American Theatre. She is also a two-time finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.
Birth and After Birth runs January 16 – 25 at the Studio Theatre. Tickets are $10 – $12 and are available by calling the theatre box office at (313) 577-2972, online at www.wsustudio.com, or by visiting the box office in the Hilberry Theatre located at 4743 Cass Avenue on the corner of Hancock.