"Melissa's Choice" Brings Wendy Davis to UNT

With an amazing cast of UNT’s finest, a set that took the audience out of the crowded theatre room and into a cozy yet comedic campsite, Melissa’s Choice brought one of the hottest topics in the current presidential race and today’s society center stage. With the seriousness that tends to follow the debate of women's reproductive rights, the play brought a delightful sense of humor while still maintaining the ability to pull at the audience’s heart strings.

The leading lady, Hero Major, played the role of Melissa Golden and captured every emotion one's body could possibly muster up. The way she subconsciously held her belly during her moments of unease and anxiety, her pony tail giving her an air of superiority as it whipped by with each snarky comment. The heart-wrenching vulnerability she portrayed as she brought the inner battle of giving into to the idea of abortion at the will of the person she loved, of keeping the baby to raise on her own, or to raise alongside a rekindled past romance. Hero’s transformation throughout the play was so fluid that by the time the play had ended, it was just too soon. She was always aware of her own sacredness, leaving us in awe as she let us into that place and witnessing her journey to fully discovering it herself.

Nick Gilley played a dapper Tad Schaefer, who despite his adoration for Melissa and his own emotional journey through loss and defeat, left us hoping for the happiest of endings even with the feeling of finality that came with the last embrace. Seeing his own transformation from a stern and stubborn partner demanding an abortion if only to be selfish for a little while longer in pursuing his own dreams, Nick comes to terms with the abruptness of life and death through the passing of his mentor, and his struggle to move forward without guidance. In this same way Melissa is faced with a similar dilemma, to see the passing of her previous self and in her own way to move forward with possibly raising the child on her own or with the companionship of her previous partner. Even through the emotional tug and war between Tad and Melissa, you can still almost see the physical spark that connects them.

With a stacked cast of talented actors that each brought something unique to the depth of play, I mean there was a dance segment that had me nearly falling out of my chair. Melissa’s Choice didn’t just revolve around the idea of whether having an abortion is morally just, but the right of a woman to have a child without the involvement of the father. To take on that responsibility and move forward as a single mother, without judgement. Pro-choice isn’t just about a woman's right to choose to have an abortion, but the right to choose to have a child.

After the play ended with an enthusiastic standing ovation, the evening moved to the panel portion of the programming. Members of the panel included Wendy Davis (Former State Senator),  Amy Murrell (UNT Psychology), Keri Carruthers (UNT Alumni), Michele Baker (Frequent contributor to the North Texas Catholic, Archdiocese of Ft.Worth), and the author of the play, Steven Somkin. I’ll humbly admit to my own ridiculous amount of fan girling over the superhero that is Wendy Davis, but it was a nice surprise to see the questions from the audiences directed to different members of the panel. Each member went down the line giving their reflections on the play, and how it resonated with them and their beliefs in the area of pro-choice.

We love you, Wendy!!!

Here are a few of their reflections.

Former Texas State Senator Wendy Davis:

“I think the play did a really good job with a lot of complexity, demonstrating how personal the decision is and one of the things to really understand about Pro-Choice is that you shouldn’t insert yourself into a women’s decision making and the play did a wonderful job of showing the a women’s decision making and how it affects the other people in her life… At the moment in their life they see that the decision is the right one, and other women should have the opportunity to make that choice themselves.”

Archdiocese of Ft Worth Michele Baker:

“To understand the What, you must first know the Why. Why in the Catholic faith take the stance we do. The purpose of the procreative act is to create… society open us up to a lot of complexities through science and the social aspects that separate the creative act from the result. Woman have the ability to bring forth life, and this should be approached with the most reverence and respect.”

“It’s is not our place to judge people, it’s God’s job to judge people..The most basic respect you can give a human being is the opportunity to live. The ability to bring forth life is what makes us unique, and to identify as feminist there is this idea that to be free and independent with have to go without what makes us uniquely women.”

UNT Alum Keri Caruthers:

“I used to feel that people choosing to go through abortion were crazy, and then faced with the choice I was now that person… After 71/2 weeks of MRI’S and appointments in Dallas, following weeks of our own doctors not being completely truthful, the doctors in Dallas were finally honest with us about the reality of our child not surviving to the end of term (due to life threatening medical issues) and I made the decision, my husband made the decision, together we made the decision to abort the pregnancy… and today I am the proud mom to two boys.”

Header image by Tiffany Johnson
Header image design by Sara Button
Other photos by Emily Cline