When she takes the stage for Washington Ensemble Theater’s production of Revolt. She Said. Revolt Again., Samie Spring Detzer will be taking part in her first truly radical piece of theater, but this will not be her first public political act.
Detzer, who also serves as WET’s artistic director, was an early participant in the Shout Your Abortion movement, which was launched one year ago as a response to the attempts by the U.S. House of Representatives to defund Planned Parenthood. Started by activist Amelia Bonow, the social-media campaign sought to destigmatize abortion and recognize it as a positive experience. Detzer was one of the first to share the story of her abortion, and, as the campaign took hold, was invited to tell it through multiple outlets, including ABC and NPR, and encourage other women to do the same.
Detzer says now that she was inspired by Bonow’s own story, but it was in part her life in theater that made her action possible. “[It] has made me fearless in that I have made an ass of myself onstage in more ways than I can count,” she says. “It allows me to not be afraid of being honest or ugly or fearless. My life in theater has shown me the way to be open about things that other people might have difficulty in being open about.”
Now Detzer’s experience with Shout Your Abortion is, in a way, folding back into her theater, as she and the rest of her company prepare for the West Coast premiere of Alice Birch’s unconventional play. Revolt. She Said. Revolt Again.—a production of which had a successful run at SoHo Rep in the spring—is a blistering and brutal series of vignettes that explore the complexities of modern feminism and the abject failures of a social system that devalues half of its populace. While clear and concise, the script is very broad, Detzer says, with Birch providing an outline and allowing the cast’s personal experiences to inform the production.
“Being that a majority of the cast and crew is female-identified, we have something new to bring in every single day,” she says. “It’s really the awesome part of doing radical or political theater, that you have something to spur your energy every single day, something new to bring to the work.”
What those who take part in the performance and witness it walk away with is more difficult to define, Detzer says. But she assures us it won’t be pretty. “This play points out that life is fucking horrible, and I am cool with presenting that,” she says. “Shit is awful and we are in the mess of it and we created it. And we keep it going and there is nearly nothing we can do. And I wouldn’t say that you can’t walk out of this play and feel hopeful for something, but I don’t think that is the intention of this play.” 12th Avenue Arts, 1620 12th Ave., washingtonensemble.org. $15–$25. Runs Sept. 23–Oct. 10.