INDIANAPOLIS — The theater community in Indianapolis is pulling together for a unique one-night production of the Tony-winning musical "Spring Awakening: In Concert" to raise money for All Options' Hoosier Abortion Fund.
The play hits The Cabaret stage precisely one week after Indiana passed a new law banning nearly all abortion procedures in the state.
"It's devastating. As a woman, as a mother, as a health care provider, it's scary. People are going to suffer. People are going to die. Abortion is safe. It is common," Cara Berg Raunick, a women's health nurse practitioner, told WRTV. "The only thing that makes abortion less safe right now is the restrictions being put on abortion care."
Cara, alongside her husband, Michael Berg Raunick, and Joey Mervis — the founders of Riverbend Production Co. — are producing Spring Awakening.
"We just sort of had this idea of, 'What out-of-the-box thing could we do to make a difference?'" Cara said.
Michael, the choral director at North Central High School, came up with the idea to put on the rock musical following a moment of hopelessness he and Cara felt as Indiana lawmakers worked to passanti-abortion legislation.
"And we thought, 'Let's do this, and let's raise some money. Let's build community and bring people together,'" Michael said.
The Berg Raunick's texted their idea to Mervis, who resides in New York City, to which he replied a resounding "yes." Mervis' quick response was soon matched by everyone the producing trio reached out to ask for help getting the play performance ready.
"When we put out the call, both for performers and creatives, we not only got a group of really talented people — really the best that Indy has to offer — but they were all willing to donate their time, and to do this event for free so that all of the proceeds that we raised go directly to the fund," Mervis said.
The similarities of 2022 and 1891
Although set in 1891, the meaning of Spring Awakening is still relevant today in 2022.
"It connects, unfortunately, to what we're going through today. And, we always sort of, unfortunately, have to look back through history to try to learn these lessons that we still don't seem to learn," Mervis said.
Spring Awakening is a coming-of-age musical that showcases what happens when adults choose to close their eyes and refuse to communicate with their children. The play explores themes of sex education, self-discovery, and rebellion.
"In the end, it centers on an unsafe abortion story. And so while, all kinds of things have changed since 1891, when the play was set, including, especially, the safety of abortion care, so many of the themes are still really relevant today," Cara said.
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Cara says that as a nurse practitioner who is also a theatre lover, she enjoys finding different ways to bring people together and make their voices heard, such as through a musical. She says theatre offers a way to manage and channel some of the collective feelings the community could be feeling and helps create action.
"This is going to be a long fight, and it's going to happen on many different frontiers," Cara said. "This space to be together with like-minded people and just explore some of these ideas is really powerful and a different way to engage."
Several community partner organizations will also be at The Cabaret on the night of the performance, including the ACLU of Indiana, Path4You, All Options, and Women4Change. Each will have a table with literature and educational materials for attendees.
Protest and healing through art
"We're dealing with something that is so difficult and can feel so hopeless at times, but it's really been amazing to see the outpouring of support from the Indianapolis arts community," Mervis said.
Putting the play together has been a rapid process, as the cast and crew have had a mere 2 weeks from conception to needing to be performance ready. Although fast and furious, Mervis says everyone has been happy to pour their particular talents into this project as their way of protest.
"I see this as just another output of (how) we need to pressure our legislators, we need to demand change," Mervis said. "It makes us feel just that little bit less helpless to put what we know towards good use."
On the flip side, Cara, as a health care professional, says that during this trying time for her, she's found pouring herself into this musical and the arts has been a form of self-care.
"Right now, I'm finding hope by throwing myself into things like this (the musical)," Cara said. "Bringing people together, celebrating where we can, spending time with people that I love, and trying to make a difference in the ways that we know how, and right now, that's working on this."
All Options is an organization that helps Hoosiers at any stage of their reproductive decision-making process. Based in Bloomington, the organization has a menstrual supply bank, a diaper bank, a talk line, and an abortion fund.
The Hoosier Abortion Fund helps people seeking abortion care by funding the cost of travel, childcare, and other things needed to seek such health care outside of the state.
"We know that changing the laws doesn't make abortion care less necessary or people less likely to seek an abortion. It just makes it harder to obtain. It places barriers in the way of people, especially those of us who are the most vulnerable. So providing the support is so so important. And we're really, really proud to partner with them," Cara said.
Tickets to Spring Awakening are $125 or $50 if you're a student. There are two showings of the musical on Saturday, August 13: one at 5 p.m. and another at 8:30 p.m. You can learn more about the show and purchase a ticket at riverbendproduction.com/springawakening. You can learn more about the Hoosier Abortion Fund at all-options.org.
WRTV Digital Reporter Shakkira Harris can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow her on Twitter, @shakkirasays.