Musings on the Play, The Interview

pronatalism, susan josephs

Families of Two & Beyond Facebook page follower Sharon Goldman turned me on to a new play running this month in LA called The Interview. Coincidentally, I was going to be in LA mid-October, and when I read this about the play, I sought out playwright Susan Josephs for a Q&A, and decided to go:

From the play’s website:

“Parenthood exists under the firm control of the federal government and it is now easier to get accepted into Harvard than become a mom or dad. Still, first-time applicants Jenna and Steven have beaten the odds and landed a coveted final interview with the U.S. Department of Parenting and Child Welfare. However, when they sit down with their state-licensed interviewer and the questioning begins, all three quickly realize that nothing could have prepared them for what they will learn about themselves—and each other”.

As those of you who have read The Baby Matrix know, I discuss many negative effects of pronatalist assumptions our society has about parenthood. One involves how the mindset that we all have the right to become parents – whether we are ready or not –impacts the lives of so many children. We see all around us the many sad effects unfit parents have on children and society.

Bmx3colorThe book looks at mindsets that promote parenthood being seen more as a “privileged right” and ideas on ways society can support parental readiness, including state or federal sponsored parental education programs with policies that provide strong tax incentives for people to complete them well before pregnancy – not after children are born (which is much if not all of parent education today).

So you can see why the backdrop of this play intrigued me. Playwright Susan Josephs explores what it would be like if society went well beyond incentivized education and had a very structured screening process for those who would be “accepted” to become parents. The play has several subplots, but what interested me most was Josephs’ portrayal of the government essentially controlling who gets to reproduce in society.

Superbly acted by Jacqueline King (as wanna be mother Jenna), Marshall McCabe (as wanna be father Steven) and Melissa Sullivan (as Veronica, government interviewer and more), as I watched the twists and turns of the drama unfold, it struck me how such tight control over parenthood would only serve to continue to put parenthood on a pedestal –possibly an even higher pedestal than pronatalism in our society does now. When government controls the crème of the crop few to have the privilege to be parents, it might make for better prepared parents, but would still promote and reinforce parenthood as the “be all end all” of everyone’s life.

And once they get that be all end all chance, they aren’t allowed to parent as they see fit. In Jenna and Steve’s parent screening interview, to have the chance to become parents they needed to sign a slew of documents agreeing to parent in certain ways, from self-soothing to the “right” foods, and more, and to being subject to home inspections to ensure they were following all of the required rules of parenthood.

The Interview smartly asks many questions, but through my post-pronatal society seeking lens it made me ponder the balancing of ensuring fit parents, great parenting and free will and choice. What Josephs presents in her play is on the extreme end of the continuum, and it is doubtful our society would allow something like this.

However, incentivized adult education can strike that balance, as would promoting education from the high school level that gives the realities of parenthood, allows young people to explore the desires, and exposes them to the fact that parenthood is a choice, not a given in life.

Thanks to producers Beyond the Usual (in association with Not Man Apart Productions), the creative team and stellar ensemble for a thought provoking and engaging work!

It is playing through the end of the month…if you’re in LA…see it!

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