Reproductive Freedom Is What We Want and Words of Choice are dynamic theatre performances in support of reproductive health, rights freedom and justice. Created by Cindy Cooper, they weave together a dozen stories of women, men and reproductive rights.
A small acting ensemble brings to life a dozen powerful, poignant and comic stories in Words of Choice: a man describes his girlfriend’s near-death before abortion is made legal; a teenager tries to remember the name and phone number of a one-night stand; and a woman seeks swift divine intervention for a contraceptive need.
Words of Choice was first performed in 2000, and first touring in 2004 in Virginia and DC with VA NOW.See more about the writers included in this version of Words of Choice.
2004: Two casts toured 8 states, including Florida, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Missouri, Illinois, Maryland and New Jersey. In New York, an except was performed by Kathleen Turner at the Beacon Theatre, Stand Up for Choice.
2005: Performances traveled to Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma, with a cast from St. Louis under the direction of Joan Lipkin. A benefit performance with Planned Parenthood in New York featured Emmy-Award winning performer Heather Tom and other well-known TV and stage performers.
2006: Casts traveled to Iowa, Rhode Island, North Carolina, and, under the direction of Francesca Mantani Arkus, across the state of South Dakota before a vote on an abortion ban (it lost, thankfully). In 2007, we released our DVD, directed by Linda Haskins and distributed by the National Film Network, and we began a blog on creativity and choice.
2004-2007: Performances of Words of Choice and our DVD included the works of a dozen writers, and we performed in collaboration with dozens of organizations in several states.
2008. Under the creative direction of Francesca Mantani Arkus, we developed a series of workshops for new work mounted a second collection of works, called Words of Choice II: Let Reproductive Freedom Ring (See Selections). Francesca called it “a play of many tones.” We toured Colorado to oppose a ballot measure that would have outlawed all abortion, and to Kansas to support Dr. George Tiller and 1100 Torches in memory of Jana Mackey.
2009: Our first collection of works was published in Front Lines: Political Plays by American Women. Words of Choice II was performed live on WBAI radio in honor of Dr. Tiller, also the subject of our essay in Women’s eNews, “Dr. Tiller Leaves His Attitude for Us to Carry On.” Words of Choice and Cindy Cooper, founder, were honored with the 2009 Anne E. Fisher Champion of Choice Award by NARAL Pro-Choice America. Words of Choice released a promotional video, created by Diana Whitcroft.
2010: We continued Creativity Workshops and performances, including at the Amnesty Human Rights Art Festival in Maryland, and other states. We produced a video to draw attention to emerging reproductive health concerns in a campaign, TellWashingtonNow.com, in collaboration with Raising Women’s Voices, Physicians for Reproductive Choice, National Women’s Health Network, National Network of Abortion Funds and the Reproductive Health and Technologies Program. We did a series of performances in New York State — Long Island, Upstate and in the New York City.
2011: We did a series of performances in New Jersey, which suddenly found itself under siege by a newly-elected anti-abortion governor. In addition to raising awareness, events raised funds to help “Words of Choice” do outreach to embattled doctors. In July, we supported Dr. LeRoy Carhart, a doctor who had worked with Dr. George Tiller, in Germantown, MD, along with Summer of Choice/Summer of Trust, prochoice activities designed to fight back against anti-abortion protesters from Operation Rescue; we invited visual artist Heather Ault to display her work at the packed performance. We continued to produce short video projects with other reproductive rights organizations, including Raising Women’s Voices. In March, the Social Justice Performers at the University of Missouri performed “Words of Choice” from Front Lines, and Planned Parenthood held a special reception that Cooper attended.
2012: We presented special performances in New Jersey at Unitarian Universalist congregagations and Ramapo College, and designed and distritubed new “activist cards” to help people take concrete steps to support reproductive Freedom. We performed at the feminist art gallery show, Against the Backlash, sponsored by SOHO21 in Chelsea.
2013: We participated in the first WiredArtsFest, live streaming across the country and across the world from live performances in New York City. We saw Words of Choice performed by other companies in Buffalo and Raleigh, NC.
2014: We developed and created the first Reproductive Justice Walking Tour, and developed a Toolkit for local communities. We released a short film about Reproductive Justice, which was presented at the Feminist Film Festival of WBAI, by the International Women Artists’ Salon, and in London’s multinational celebration of choice, which we also joined by SKYPE to describe the state of reproductive rights in the U.S. We worked with Missouri-based FAITH ALOUD to explore a new form for its 40 Days of Prayer for Reproductive Justice.
2015: Words of Choice was honored with THE VISION AWARD by the Abortion Conversation Project. We reach our 300th entry on the blog, Up the Creativity, about creative actions around reproductive rights. We showed our short film on Reproductive Justice at film festivals, and created a special live performance, Reproductive Freedom on Fire, for The Left Forum. We reach over 300 posts on our blog, Up the Creativity. We screened our Reproductive Justice Walking Tour film at Manhattan Plaza in New York City with the International Women Artists’ Salon. In August, Cooper delivered a paper on reproductive rights, sexual violence and domestic workers at an international conference in China.
2016: TheReproductive Freedom Festivalby Words of Choice mounted a Live and Live Arts Streaming production of 31 short plays on reproductive rights, health, freedom and justice. Also streamed were two original songs and electronic art. Thirty-five actors and seven directors participated. Working with Live Streaming partner VirtualArts.TV, the festival reached all 50 states and nine countries. Over 6,000 people watched. The Reproductive Freedom Festival opened a new Activist Page for follow-up. In addition to several articles about the Festival, Cooper discussed it on the radio case, Issues for our Tissues. In fall 2016, the Reproductive Freedom Anthology of Indie Theatre Now published the works produced in the Reproductive Freedom Festival — everyone can read them!
2017:Words of Choice was honored with a THANK YOU AWARD from the Quixote Foundation in Seattle, WA for bringing “honest, funny and truth-telling power to … the importance of a woman’s right to choose.” We began a Community Outreach program, teaching Creative Theatre and Arts at a facility for women exiting prison. We performed a Live Radio Program, Reproductive Freedom Is What We Want, with the International Women Artists’ Salon; the performance selections are posted on SoundCloud.
2018: We joined with Ego Actus Theatre Company in New York to create a Living Newspaper Women’s Edition on Governor’s Island as part of a residency at the Laboratorium of Rising Sun Performance Company. Four writers, including Cassandra Medley, Brigitte Barnett, Jessica Carmona and Cindy Cooper, joined with six actors to create five new works under the direction of Joan Kane. We undertook the publication of Short Plays on Reproductive Freedom, an anthology from the Reproductive Freedom Festival and more. Our Words of Choice DVD, created with Linda Haskins, was prepared for rerelease by a new video company.
2019: We performed Reproductive Freedom Is What We Want at Ridgewood Unitarian Society in New Jersey, and at The People’s Forum in Manhattan featuring Donna Jean Fogel, Alinca Hamilton and Carl H. Jaynes, under the direction of Francesca Mantani Arkus. The selections incorporated pieces from the Reproductive Freedom Festival and the Living Newspaper Project, as well as others from the Words of Choice repertoire. We appeared on WBAI Joy of Resistance about the program. We launched Reproductive Freedom Walking Tours in conjunction with Social Justice Tours, covering people and places in Lower Manhattan. We released a paperback, Short Plays on Reproductive Freedom, with readings by a half-dozen writers and actors for a Book Launch at Bluestockings Books, NYC.
Where We Are
Words of Choice is based in New York City. We have traveled to 20 states and worked with over 100 organizations to expand discussions about reproductive freedom. We’ve Live Streamed across the U.S. and the world. Contact us here.