The devastation wrought by the surgical removal of a woman’s uterus and ovaries, often without any medical necessity and without her informed consent, is the timely target of Un Becoming: A Play About Hysterectomy. According to Pittsburgh, Pa. playwright Rick Schweikert’s harrowing expose, thousands of women worldwide enter the operating room, expecting to have a routine medical procedure (e.g., a laparoscopy for diagnosis and treatment of fibroids), and wake up to find that they have undergone complete hysterectomies. The resulting damage to the woman’s physical and mental well-being is dramatized, quite eloquently, in Un Becoming.
The Still Water Theatre production of Schweikert’s provocative play, sponsored by the HERS Foundation and presented as a free staged reading last Sunday afternoon at Meredith College in Raleigh, NC, deserved a much larger audience and more local news media coverage than it received. The cast assembled — and superbly orchestrated — by director Steven Roten included some of the Triangle’s finest actors.
Betsy Henderson gave a passionate performance as Emma Douglas, a free-spirited painter with painful fibroids. Emma is about to enter the hospital for a routine laparoscopy. Her husband, Dr. Sam Morgan (Zach Thomas), is reassuring. He is a physician and their good friend, Dr. James Ridge (David Henderson), will perform the surgery on Emma.
Alarmed by Internet research that reveals a veritable epidemic of unnecessary hysterectomies, Emma’s colleague and confidant, sculptor John Tracey (Jim Moscater), tries to warn her that the consent form that she must sign before surgery gives her doctors all the power they need to perform a hysterectomy, without even consulting her.
When her surgeon’s distraught wife, Halley Ridge (Canady Vance), reveals a shocking secret, whatever quiet second thoughts Emma become screaming accusations.
The husband-and-wife team of David and Betsy Henderson were excellent as friends-turned-adversaries who come increasingly antagonistic as the facts about hysterectomy are revealed. Jim Moscater was charming as Emma’s increasingly concerned friend John; Zach Thomas was a bit distant as her supremely unconcerned husband Sam; and Carnessa Ottelin was good as Sam’s colleague and lover Dr. Rose Parker.
Stephanie Maysonave gave a touching performance as drama teacher Susan Herse, who was horrified when she learned that her minor surgery had become a hysterectomy; and Maureen Price was effective as the Ridges’ 12-year-old daughter Megan.
If you are a woman — or anyone who has a mother or wife or sister or daughter or female relative or friend — Un Becoming is a vitally important play to bring to her attention. Certainly, it addresses issues that every woman should consider before going under the knife. The price of uninformed consent can be, quite literally, unbearable.
In the post-performance discussion, Nora W. Coffey of the HERS Foundation and dramatist Rick Schweikert claimed that upwards of 90 percent of hysterectomies performed in the United States are unnecessary; there are five times more hysterectomies in the South than in the Northeast; and eighty percent of hysterectomized women are castrated at the same time. (For a fuller explication of the issues, see the web sites listed below.)
The Play: http://www.unbecomingplay.com/. The HERS Foundation: http://www.hersfoundation.com/ [inactive 6/05]. March 12th March in Washington, D.C. Against Unwarranted, Unconsented, Unwanted Hysterectomies: http://www.theprotestandtheplay.com/ [inactive 3/08].
Un Becoming: A Play About Hysterectomy (Still Water Theatre, 2 p.m. Jan. 30 in Carswell Concert Hall in the Wainwright Music Building, Meredith College, 3800 Hillsborough St., Raleigh, NC) is a free reading of a timely new play written by Rick Schweikert and directed by Steven Roten. This performance is sponsored by the HERS Foundation (http://www.hersfoundation.com/ [inactive 6/05]), an international independent nonprofit group for the education of women about the adverse effects of hysterectomy and alternative treatments. Schweikert writes, “Un Becoming is a play about the complex issues surrounding hysterectomy. It revolves around the artist Emma Douglas. Painting is her life’s breath, except now a medical opinion threatens everything.… [Un Becoming p]remiered Off Broadway earlier this year and is being compared with The Vagina Monologues and Wit. Raleigh is the 47th stop on a 51-city Protest & Play tour.” Barbara Seaman, author of The Greatest Experiment Ever Performed on Women, says, “Anyone who loves women should see this play, and everyone has a mother!” Note: Following the Sunday afternoon performance, there will be a talk-back discussion led by Nora W. Coffey of HERS and playwright Rick Schweikert. For more information about the play, visit http://www.unbecomingplay.com/. For tickets, telephone 919/760-8719 or 484/432-8356.