On-Born Children and Ghosts
See below a scene by scene breakdown of resources, references and information on the ten scenes of the play. This information is provided for you to engage with as you desire.
Three-Faced Productions acknowledges that we perform and live on Native Land, land stewarded by the Washtáge Moⁿzháⁿ (Kaw / Kansa), 𐓏𐒰𐓓𐒰𐓓𐒷 𐒼𐓂𐓊𐒻 𐓆𐒻𐒿𐒷 𐓀𐒰^𐓓𐒰^(Osage), Očhéthi Šakówiŋ, and the Kiikaapoi (Kickapoo) Tribal Nations.
For more information about histories of this land, please visit local Tribe websites:
Prologue: Lili Gyal
Time: the past, Place: dreamscape
Lili Gyal is a Guyanese folk song, origin unknown. One digital recording can be found in the YouTube link, and sheet music with the original Guyanese Creole lyrics can be accessed in One Hundred Guyanese Folk Songs. Guyanese Creole is the (unofficial) language spoken by the majority of people who live in Guyana, South America. It is an English lexifer with influences from Dutch, Indigenous Guyanese languages, as well as a range of languages from different African cultures and countries, and India. Despite not being an official language, it is the primary language spoken in Guyana. For this production we translated the song into standard English words, though keeping the Guyanese Creole grammar so the song still works.
Lili - little
Gyal - girl
Brazen - behaving grown up, loud, sexual
Scene One: No Matter is Created or Disappears
Time: the present, Place: Lawrence, Kansas
Emily and Char learn they are pregnant and discuss what this means for them.
More Information about IVF:
IVF in the United States generally costs around $20,000.00. (Forbes breakdown)
Last month, October 2023, the American Society for Reproductive Medicine changed their definition of infertility to include those in need of egg or sperm donation for any reason, including single or same-sex partnership status. This has major implications for same-sex partners and single people accessing health insurance coverage for artificial reproductive technology (ART). Before this, only people in heterosexual partnerships unable to conceive could access coverage for fertility treatments including ART.
Scene Two: Shame
Time: the present and the 1980s, Place: Lawrence, Kansas and Georgetown, Guyana
Char calls her mother to ask about a dream.
You can follow along with the script!
Obeah is the name given to a range of medical and spiritual practices and treatments derived from various African practices and developed by people of African descent in the English-speaking Caribbean, including Guyana. Obeah is heavily stigmatized and was outlawed through much of the Caribbean. It's usage is largely undocumented as a result though widespread. Learn more at the early caribbean digital archive.
Non-consentual abortion and sterilization have a long history. Child-bearing persons belonging to populations deemed undesirable have been targets of such practices throughout colonial and post-colonial history. This includes, in the US, forced sterilization of Black and disabled people.
Frequent bleeding during pregnancy can be caused by iron deficiency. Eating foods high in iron, such as leafy greens, like okra, callaloo, and spinach can help bolster iron levels. Iron deficiency endangers maternal and fetal health. More information on iron deficiency.
Indigenous women have also been specifically subjected to forced sterilization.
NOTE: This scene was written based on personal stories shared with the playwright and recounts real experiences of women.
Scene Three: Childbearing hips
Time: the present, Place: Lawrence, Kansas
Char and Emily go to their second trimester check-up.
The Obstetrical Dilemma includes the concept that Black women have different pelvises than non-Black women and are, in fact, not of the same species. This idea continues to influence contemporary gynecology despite being proven entirely false.
Modern gynecology was developed largely by white male doctors during slavery who used Black women to experiment.
Painting by Robert Thom, 1952.
Depicting Lucy, Anarcha, Betsey and their torturers, medical practitioners.
NOTE: This scene was written based on personal experience.
Scene Four: Keeping Secrets
Time: the present, Place: a Zoom call, then Lawrence, Kansas
Emily connects, and disconnects, with her besties.
You can follow along with the script!
Biological determinism is the concept that we are biologically pre-programmed and what we inherit from our biological parents is the most important information.
A known sperm donor is an individual who donates sperm to a specific person or people. An unknown sperm donor generally donates through a sperm bank and leaves a profile for people to chose from.
Learn more about LGBTQI+ parental rights by state at the MAP Project.
Scene Five: I'll Fly Away
Time: 1781, and today, Place: A slave ship on the Atlantic Ocean, and several churches today
A mother and daughter on a slave ship. The daughter is sick. 232 years later Emily and Char try church.
The first part of this scene is based on the historic Zong massacre. 132 enslaved Africans were murdered aboard the slave ship. They were sick and the owners of the ship drowned them to claim insurance money. They would have succeeded but Olaudah Equiano, a formerly enslaved man, learned the truth through his networks, and informed a white abolitionist who took the case to court. The first ruling was that the enslaved people were livestock and killing them for the safety of the ship was permissible. The case was appealed and they were ruled people. The insurance claim was denied but no one was punished for this massacre. Click for more information.
The myth of the Flying Africans originates from what is known as the Igbo Landing, when enslaved people mutinied, overthrowing their captors, and then walked into the sea and many believed that, instead of drowning, they flew home. The concept of flying home, the escape from the spiritual death of slavery through the physical death of the body and the transcendence, flight, of the spirit, permeates African-American storytelling traditions. From Toni Morrison's Song of Solomon to the (en)slave(d) to spirituals including "I'll Fly Away" and "Wade in the Water." Click for more information.
I'll Fly Away was first written and documented to be performed in 1929 by white musician Albert E. Brumley and was first published in 1932 by the Hartford Music Company. However, this published version was likely based on spirituals first sung by enslaved Africans. Click for more information.
Bible Quotes used in sermon:
They Went So High, Way Over Slavery Land, by Constanza Knight, watercolor
Scene Six: The Pregnant Wife Thing
Time: today, Place: a political fundraiser
Char takes Emily to a fundraiser for the politician they work for.
Scene Seven: Be Like Mary
Time: 1953, Place: A doctor's office somewhere
A woman goes to the doctor to ask what to do with an unwanted pregnancy.
The character of the doctor is based on a Letter to the Editor from May 2022, written in the Kaieteur News, a Guyanese Newspaper.
This scene is inspired by personal stories shared with the playwright. All identifying details have been changed.
Scene Eight: The Choice of Pain
Time: now, Place: Lawrence
Char and Emily start work with a Doula
Doulas of Douglas County is a collective of community-based Doulas located in Lawrence.
Uzazi Village is a nonprofit organization dedicated to decreasing maternal and infant health inequity among Black and Brown communities, located in KCMO.
Therapy for sexual empowerment, intimacy and more. LGBTQIA+.
Scene Nine: Too Many Stairs
Time: now, Place: a hospital in Georgetown, Guyana
A woman, just postpartum has to walk up and down stairs to feed her infant.
This scene is also based on a series of workshops done in Georgetown, Guyana in 2021 and 2022, both with playwrights and with women's rights advocates. The characters of the nurses are inspired by these workshops and their discussions of treatment of pregnant people in hospitals.
Farina Mohamed passed away in 2019 shortly postpartum.