The original version of Lisa Loomer’s 2016 play “Roe” ended with the words, “As of today, Roe v. Wade still stands.” In June 2022, after the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization overturned a woman’s right to abortion, the play’s final statement was no longer true. So students at California University Lutheran, who are staging “Roe” in October, had to wait for a rewrite from Loomer.
Cal Lutheran’s Theatre Arts and Dance Department will present a staged version of “Roe” (the updated version), directed by Red Patterson and Bianca Akbiyik, at 8 p.m. Oct. 19-21 in the Preus-Brandt Forum on the Thousand Oaks campus.
“Roe” follows the history of the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision through the eyes of the actual people involved in the case, from its inception to the current court reversal decision. Those depicted in the play include Norma McCorvey, the real name of plaintiff “Jane Roe” in the case, and Sarah Weddington, her lawyer. The actors — all Cal Lutheran students or alumni — will play more than one role.
Director Patterson, who graduated from Cal Lutheran in 2021 with a degree in theater arts, said “Roe” was selected for the fall production “because we thought it was so pertinent at this time after the Supreme Court decision.” Abortion is a controversial topic, but Patterson said the goal of “Roe” is “less about questioning abortion rights and more about shining light on the story of Roe v. Wade and its inception.” The play, she said, “represents all the characters in a fair, unbiased way; one is not more villainous than another.”
Some theatergoers might be surprised to know the real backstories of those involved in the Roe v. Wade decision. McCorvey, for example, who died in 2017, “went full circle, all the way from pro-choice to pro-life,” Patterson said. “The play starts when she’s 22, and ends with her being a born-again Christian who says Roe v. Wade was the worst decision she ever made.” (McCorvey gave birth to her baby, because the court decision came too late for her to have an abortion.)
“Roe” was originally commissioned by the Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s American Revolutions program and received the Jane Chambers Playwriting Award and PEN Award. Loomer’s other stage works include “Café Vida,” “Distracted” and “The Waiting Room.” Loomer, speaking about “Roe” to the Chicago Tribune in 2020, said, “I wanted to show the passion and ferocity of both sides and also the humanity of both sides.”
After the recent Supreme Court decision, Patterson said, Loomer updated the script to change the prologue and epilogue, and made a few other small changes.
“We’ve tried really hard to present this in a light where nobody feels judged,” Patterson said. “But given what’s happened the Supreme Court, it’s important to realize how much Roe v. Wade has affected the lives of millions of women.”
Admission to “Roe” is free, and no reservations are required. For more information, visit CalLutheran.edu/theatre or call 805-493-3452.