When they were in grad school, Rachel Sullivan and Maggie Keenan-Bolger were working on a thesis together about women’s experiences in public spaces. At the end of the project, they realized sexuality was never directly discussed, though it clearly influenced the topic. Aside from already having an interest in sexuality, Maggie and Rachel have a theatre company, Honest Accomplice, which focuses on topics that aren’t openly discussed or seen as shameful. And so, The Birds and the Bees: Unabridged was born.
Patty talked to Maggie and Rachel, along with three of the actors, Liza Fischer, Holly Sansom, and (someone you might know) Emily Faye Oakley, about the experience of putting this show together. Maggie and Rachel didn’t sit down at a computer and write up a script. The Birds and the Bees: Unabridged is a devised theatre piece. It’s created by the actors working together and using real life experiences to create a piece about different aspects of sexuality. This isn’t the first production of the show. We saw the show last year, and when she saw they were doing it again, Emily wanted to be a part of it. She also wanted to be a part of telling a different kind of story. Holly, who was a part of conceiving the project the first time around, said what partly drew her to it was the varied types of people who were represented; people she didn’t normally see on stage. Liza had helped with props the first time around and comes from a more traditional theatre background. She was excited to be working on a show that was trying to say something and wasn’t focused on the commercial aspects.
So, what is it trying to say? After surveying over 2,000 people online, talking to friends, and working with the original and current casts, The Birds and the Bees: Unabridged is saying what Salt ‘n Pepa said way back in 1991: Let’s Talk About Sex. The previous production was more of a series of thematically connected scenes. While in this production, each character has a through line that you follow. Just like the rest of us, these characters are dealing with topics of body image, race and sexuality, hookup culture, gender, etc. And the hope is that you leave talking about these issues and maybe even opening up about your own experiences. The show isn’t meant to make anyone uncomfortable; it’s not gratuitously sexual or, at the other end, overly clinical. It’s a representation of many topics not often discussed; experiences people have, but don’t talk about. So, here it is. Maggie, Rachel, and their cast are having The Talk. The one about the birds and the bees.
The Birds and the Bees: Unabridged runs October 8th-12th. The show is double cast. The cast for October 8th & 10th is Samantha Cunha, Meggan Dodd, Liza Fischer, Cat Fisher, Lindsay Griffen, Austin Klich, E. Okobi, Julia Osen Averill, and Holly Sansom. The cast for October 9th, 11th, & 12th is Mike Burke, Ruth Cooper, Suzu Ledoux, Emily Faye Oakley, E. Okobi, Julia Osen Averill, Mary Parker, Holly Sansom, and Mary Sheridan. Get your tickets here.
Of course, even during this discussion of serious, important (and fun!) topics, we had to throw in our little nonsense survey for these ladies. Here it is!
PATTY & EMILY: Do you know Beth Leavel?
MAGGIE KEENAN-BOLGER: Yes.
RACHEL SULLIVAN: Made a sad face because she doesn’t know who that is.
LIZA FISCHER: Nope.
HOLLY SANSOM: I love her.
P&E: Which show do you most want revived?
MKB: Side Show, but they’re doing it now!
RS: I’ll just go with Side Show.
LF: I know they just did it, but I missed it. I want to see Angels in America.
HS: Can we have another Ragtime that stays?
P&E: Have you ever fallen asleep on stage while pretending to be asleep or dead on stage?
MKB: When I was five, I did The Sound of Music, and they had to cancel the rest of rehearsal because I fell asleep on the bed.
RS: I don’t know if I’ve ever had to pretend to be… I definitely haven’t ever had to be dead. I don’t think I ever had to be asleep.
LF: I did an outdoor Hamlet and was being eaten by mosquitoes when I was carried out dead. So, no.
HS: I feel like any time I ever had to be dead, I’ve been in really uncomfortable positions. So, not a factor.
P&E: What’s your favorite Broadway house?
MKB: Can I say my sister’s house?
RS: BAM. The Harvey Theater.
LF: I like the one that they did Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf in. The Booth. And I also have to shout-out the A.R.T. was my childhood theatre.
HS: I just went to the Winter Garden for the very first time, and I love the mezzanine. It made me feel welcome as a poor person.
P&E: Dreamcast us in a show
MKB: Side Show!
RS: Side Show?
P&E: Do you have a monologue?
MKB: That you want me to do right now?!
RS: I probably would need a few hours.
LF: I totally do.
HS: I don’t audition any more. No.
P&E: What is the show you’ve seen the most times?
RS: I’ve seen the video…the original The Sound of Music with Julie Andrews. I know that’s not live, but that shit was my favorite.
LF: Probably The Seagull.
HS: I was weirdly obsessed with Dirty Rotten Scoundrels in college.
P&E: Who would you fangirl(boy) over?
MKB: Does it have to be a Broadway person? Zoe Palmer.
RS: One of the coolest things I ever saw was this nine-hour play directed by Robert Lepage. And I think anyone that can get me to sit in a theatre for nine hours? That’s pretty cool. Or maybe Cate Blanchett.
LF: I met Frances McDormand. She came into my coffee shop. And I was like, “Are you Frances McDormand?” And she said yes. And I said, “I think you’re amazing. I’m and actress.” I was right out of college. And she said, “Oh, that’s great! There should be more actors.” And she tipped me 50 cents.
HS: Sara Ramirez.
P&E: On a scale of 1-10, how awful is the Broadway World message board?
RS: Not applicable?
HS: I think All That Chat is worse though.
P&E: Comps and a Time Machine.
MKB: Into the Woods
RS: I feel like I’d like to go back to a really different time period, like Sarah Bernhardt. And see how the audiences dressed and how the acting styles were so different.
LF: Yeah, the original Seagull.
HS: I mean, Ragtime. The original cast.
Again, The Birds and the Bees: Unabridged runs October 8th-12th. And you can get tickets here.