Every few years, for reasons no has explored, women playwrights find a less chilly reception than we have usually encountered in the theatre. Such a blissful period, in the eighties, ushered in my first plays, and now another blessed moment gives me a chance to submit one of those first plays to a short play festival in New York.
The best thing about being a newbie in the business of theatre is that everything seemed possible. No one was talking, yet, about the need to keep the cast size under four, to use only one, minimal set, and to imitate as far as possible—and of course this was never said—whatever had succeeded off-Broadway the previous season, which usually means a play about a family with a screaming mother.
When I wrote Couvade, which you can read on this post, I was noticing that suddenly “we” were pregnant—the presumptive father as well as the mother, somehow sharing the experience which, as I remembered it, is utterly unsharable. Perhaps like death…
Imagining what it would be like for a man to be, literally, pregnant, I wrote Couvade. The title comes from an ancient practice in Polynesia; when a woman there went into labor, the man involved went into labor, too, with all the same groans and screams.
But men don’t ordinarily groan and scream, except perhaps in combat, and so the whole idea of a man would be, for the duration of his labor, wrenched apart.
Couvade was performed at Actors Theatre in Louisville, Kentucky, as part of a short-lived series of plays by women. In my perhaps glorified memory, they were all brilliant. And, almost as certainly, only one of them ever reappeared again on the stage.
But Couvade may live again, and in that case, you will have been among the first to read it.
Read the original 1983 New York Times review of Couvade and other plays performed in “83 Shorts.”