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Campagna to direct Vogel’s 'And Baby Makes Seven'

Barry McNamara
04/12/2018
Vanessa Campagna oversees a rehearsal for "And Baby Makes Seven," which will be staged in the College's Wells Theater April 19-22.
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MONMOUTH, Ill. – For Monmouth College Assistant Professor of Theatre Vanessa Campagna, directing And Baby Makes Seven is the product of several years of scholarship.

The play by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Paula Vogel will be performed April 19-22 at the College’s Wells Theater.

“This production – with the pun fully intended – is a labor of love,” said Campagna. “I wrote a dissertation chapter on the play, and then it became a published scholarly article. So directing the play is the last step in years of my work with the text.”

And Baby Makes Seven first appeared on the stage in 1984.

“This play is about a queer threesome living in New York City in our present day,” she said. “They have wonderfully vibrant and active imaginations. ... Prior to the start of the play, (the characters) Anna and Ruth conceived, in their imaginations, three young boys: a child genius named Cecil; a French boy named Henri; and Orphan, who was first raised by a pack of wild dogs. The play begins with these characters deciding to embark upon reproductive futurity – in other words, having a biological child. They grapple with what that decision means for the imaginary boys.”

Campagna said that Vogel – who won the 1998 Pulitzer Prize for Drama for How I Learned to Drive – was “an early architect of queer theories relating to parenting.”

“The play is about people negotiating being a part of this meta-narrative in our culture – becoming parents, having children, living the straight and narrow, so to speak, and reconciling what that means they might have to give up,” she said. “I love the play because, ultimately, the characters discover that you don’t necessarily have to give anything up. In this case, you can have your queerness and your kids. You can have it all. We need only expand our imaginations and be willing to play with, even rewrite, these major narratives. “

Although some of Vogel’s other works get more attention, both from scholars and directors, Campagna said she was happy to tackle a lesser-known play, in collaboration with her Monmouth students and colleagues.

And Baby Makes Seven just doesn’t get a lot of production, and some of that is because of the acting challenges,” she said. “You’ve got to have two really incredible female actors who can play Anna and Ruth, since both roles demand also personifying the imaginary children ... it takes some real ‘chops.’”

Playing Anna and Ruth are, respectively, Krysten Hume ’18 of Monmouth and Amelia Chavez ’21 of Chicago. Rounding out the cast are Terry Harris ’19 of Chicago and Billy Savage ’19 of Hickory Hills, Ill., who are double-cast in the role of Peter.

In preparing the production, Campagna said it was tempting to plot out exactly how she wanted the play to unfold on stage, but she said that would be “antithetical” to Vogel’s lead.

“That goes against what Vogel says,” she said. “Vogel says we have to play and be willing to re-imagine things and change things, so there’s not a piece of blocking on the stage that hasn’t gone through at least three or four iterations. Sincere thanks is due to the students for being flexible, because part of this process is ‘Let’s just play.’ Or, to quote the script, ‘Make it up as you go along.’”

Helping create the playful vibe is what Campagna called a “fantastic” set by fellow theatre professor Doug Rankin.

“It’s a fun, gorgeous, functional set,” she said.

Campagna hopes that audience members will leave And Baby Makes Seven feeling “amused and liberated.”

“I think there’s something for everyone,” she said. “There are people who need to see the play because their notions of what constitutes a legitimate relationship or family need some expanding. I also think there are people who need to see the play because they could benefit from laughing and relaxing just a little bit – not worrying so much about ‘doing it right.’ But really, anybody should come because we have all been kids, and most of us have lost something wonderful as part of growing up that we didn’t necessarily need to.”

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Monmouth College will present “And Baby Makes Seven” at 7:30 p.m. April 19-21 and at 2 p.m. April 22 at the College’s Wells Theater. Tickets can be purchased online at monmouthcollege.edu/box-office. Tickets are $8 for adults, $7 for seniors and students, and $6 for students and faculty with a Monmouth College ID.