Paula Kamen

Paula Kamen

I'm the Evanston-based author of four books of non-fiction, about generations of feminists, and several produced plays, including "Jane: Abortion and the Underground," based on original interviews and research about the legendary feminist pre-Roe Chicago abortion service. Have guest blogged for New York Times and Ms, and published commentaries in Salon, McSweeney's, Women's Review of...
I'm the Evanston-based author of four books of non-fiction, about generations of feminists, and several produced plays, including "Jane: Abortion and the Underground," based on original interviews and research about the legendary feminist pre-Roe Chicago abortion service. Have guest blogged for New York Times and Ms, and published commentaries in Salon, McSweeney's, Women's Review of Books, Chicago Tribune, In These Times, and more.

Plays

  • The Accidental Stalker
    A neurotic thriller & comedy of manners with introverts. In this ten-minute comedy, a harried woman turns her life upside down by accidentally crossing the unspoken social boundary between acquaintances. As a result, she accidentally torments a parent from her kids' school by constantly running into him everywhere she goes. This escalates until one day in the gym when they have a violent, not to mention awkward, reckoning.
  • Jane: Abortion and the Underground
    A timely, unapologetic and provocative drama about the harrowing reality of what happened to women when abortion was outlawed, and the power of feminist organizing to meet women's most urgent and vital needs. Offered for free for pro-choice fundraisers. The script offers many substantial roles for college-age and women in their twenties and thirties. The part-documentary play is based on original...
    A timely, unapologetic and provocative drama about the harrowing reality of what happened to women when abortion was outlawed, and the power of feminist organizing to meet women's most urgent and vital needs. Offered for free for pro-choice fundraisers. The script offers many substantial roles for college-age and women in their twenties and thirties. The part-documentary play is based on original interviews about “the best-kept secret” in Chicago, “Jane,” an underground abortion service that operated from 1969 to 1973. This network, run by a feminist collective of mostly middle-class housewives and students, was the one safe alternative for about 11,000 Chicago women of all backgrounds. In all those years, “Jane,” which boasted no fatalities and operated in private apartments throughout the city, was well trusted by and commonly received referrals from police, university administrators, social workers, clergy and hospital staff.

    Writing about play’s premiere production, Chicago Reader critic Kim Wilson said: “Everyone -- but women especially -- should hear this story.”

    Research for the writing of Jane includes a detailed, original investigation into its past and interviews with those who were on the scene in Chicago. This includes, most notably, women who used the illegal service. The drama is stitched together from original interview transcripts, fictionalized reenactments of conversations, and historical documents, such as an excerpt from an actual "witch"-led abortion-rights street theater from the early '70s, internal memos of the group, and front-page newspaper coverage of “The Abortion Seven.”

    The research was used by the makers of the PBS documentary, Jane: An Abortion Service, which aired in 1998. The interview transcripts, quoted in the 1997 book When Abortion Was A Crime (University of California Press), are also on file with the Special Collections Department of the Northwestern University Library.

    Was excerpted in two Smith & Kraus "best of" stage scenes and women's monologue anthologies. Two scenes were recently accepted into the first anthology of abortion-related literature, Choice Words, due out in 2020 from Haymarket Press

    The play has also been written about by drama scholars, such as in in Frontiers article about innovative feminist docudrama structure, http://muse.jhu.edu/article/530604
    and as chapter in book about feminist plays on abortion,as one play that addresses the issue most directly and apologetically.
    http://www.amazon.com/Examining-Confrontation-Ambivalence-Depictions-Reproductive/dp/0779904524/ref=la_B004SW9GUQ_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1461959847&sr=1-1&refinements=p_82%3AB004SW9GUQ%2Cp_n_feature_browse-bin%3A2656022011

    Three versions are available, including the revised & updated 2019 version requiring fewer actors. Also available on request are two shorter student-made adaptations: one hour-long monologues-only version and one half-hour of scenes.

    The new version of the play includes three main characters, which emerge organically as leaders during different parts of The Service. That includes founder Heather Booth, who went to organize the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, signed into law in 2010 by President Obama, and spearheaded by Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts.

Recommended by Paula Kamen

  • DISCLOSURE
    13 Mar. 2017

    As a mother, and as a child of a mother, I strongly connected to this play. With wit and suspense, Lashof explores the constant struggle across three generations of one family -- of when to know when to fight to protect one's child and when to just let go. Here, with a thorny secret disclosed, the stakes couldn't be higher, threatening the family to its core. We become quickly invested in these complex and erudite characters, as they seek the same level of insights for dealing with relationships as they have about Proust and Foucault, which are straightforward by comparison.