By Vivian Thurman
It’s been said that Norma McCorvey led two lives. In the public eye, she was “Jane Roe,” a pseudonym that maintained her anonymity for years. Pregnant with her third child by age 21, she sought an abortion, which was illegal in 1969. With the feminist movement in high gear, Jane Roe became a symbol for women who sought autonomy over their bodies. It took four years of hearings and a Supreme Court decision in 1973 to legalize abortion with the Roe v. Wade ruling.
McCorvey, however, never attended a hearing and never got an abortion. Instead, she lived quietly for a number of years. Later in life, she claimed that she had been used and “dehumanized” by the abortion movement to bring attention to a woman’s right to abortion.
In playwright and actor Erin Joy Schmidt’s one-woman show about the real-life woman who became forever synonymous with the famous court ruling, we meet Norma McCorvey at age 21. The show takes us through her life — although not in chronological order — where she is at turns an abused child, a simple and naive woman, and one who found love in a queer relationship that lasted over 30 years.
Through a well-paced series of some 13 scenes, Schmidt adeptly takes on multiple roles.
In addition to the title character at various ages, Schmidt morphs into lawyers with a switch of her accents, hairstyles, stance, and mannerisms. She is confident, award-winning, an assistant professor of theater, and a playwright with promise in this world premiere.
The direction by Paul Tei, founder of Mad Cat Theater Company of Florida, utilizes a backdrop screen that displays the location name, date, and time of each scene to keep the storytelling organized. Sound effects help establish some locations.
My Name Is Norma is a brilliant world premiere from a playwright with promise.
Running Time: 50 minutes.
Director: Paul Tei
Playwright: Erin Joy Schmidt
Performer: Erin Joy Schmidt
Stage Manager: Ricky Waugh
Age appropriateness: Appropriate for adults only
Vivian Thurman is a lover of all things theater and fitness. Find her on the aisle, or in the gym, where her worlds collide!
The complete 2023 Capital Fringe Festival guidebook is online here.
SEE ALSO: 2023 Capital Fringe Preview: ‘My Name Is Norma’ (preview by Erin Joy Schmidt, July 6, 2023)