two friends remake 1986 play 'women of manhattan' to support planned parenthood
Actress and We the Women collective co-founder Nathalie Love discusses her how Los Angeles theater can benefit women’s reproductive rights today.
Samantha Ressler and Nathalie Love
This weekend, March 10 and 11, at the historic Palace Theater in Los Angeles, Nathalie Love and Samantha Ressler will debut their production of Women of Manhattan—a witty 1986 play written by John Patrick Shanley—and donate 100 percent of the proceeds to Planned Parenthood. "Planned Parenthood is open to anyone in need of reproductive healthcare and sex education, regardless of age, race, religion or sexual orientation," Nathalie says. "Sam and I both feel that their policy of inclusion is the most important thing right now." In their rendition of Women of Manhattan, directed by Martha Gehman, Nathalie, Samantha and Jackie Shea portray three Upper West Side women who are deeply frustrated with their personal lives. "Billie describes this hunger, this insatiable appetite, this feeling of never being satisfied and always wanting more," Nathalie explains of her character. "I really relate to that." It was Nathalie and Sam's own dissatisfaction that led to their recent founding of We the Women, the collective that is presenting the play, as well as the corresponding art show. "Just one talented woman after the next came on board," Nathalie says. "It just grew, and all of us knew why we had to do it—we all were so upset, so angry at what is happening in the world. Everyone rallied around the idea of putting energy into a project that benefitted PlannedParenthood." In the following interview, Nathalie discusses We the Women and Women of Manhattan, and also talks women's rights, women's marches, and the future for females.
What is We the Women? Why did you co-found it?
Samantha and I have been friends and collaborators for the past few years on a few different projects, namely our web series That's What She Said. Sam created it and we co-starred and produced the show with an incredible crew and some amazing actors. But We the Women—the name and the company—actually came about because of this play. There's a thing that can happen when you're an actress, and it's a bit demoralizing because you spend all of this time auditioning and putting your energy into things that, you know, last three minutes. It's exhausting and it's not creative, and I think both Sam and I knew that we needed to create our own content or find something to inspire us. We knew we had to do it ourselves, and so we were talking about what to do.
I went to acting school in New York with our other lead actress Jackie; we reconnected around the same time and also discussed this frustration and desire to do something. So I introduced the girls and we started reading plays and talking about plays and politics and drinking lots of green tea and having these weekly meetings. The difficulty was finding a play with three strong female characters. Sam brought us Women of Manhattan by John Patrick Shanley. We all fell in love with it, and then set about trying to figure out how to put it up.
What made you fall in love with it?
I think we connected to the material because it's about these three women who are talking about their frustrations. Even though it takes place in the 1980s, the conversations are conversations we are having now and the friendships and this bond between women is so powerful. As we were figuring out how to get this whole thing off the ground—acquiring rights and building websites and so on—it grew from a little play in our living room to what it's become; the forming of this creative women's collective. We realized this was it. This was what we were looking for.
Why is contributing to Planned Parenthood important?
Planned Parenthood serves a vital role in our community for women and men as far as reproductive health and sexual education is concerned. They are also one of the leading advocates in the continued fight for our reproductive rights.
Besides going to see your play, how can help support Planned Parenthood or women's rights?
Planned Parenthood has events around the country that people can host or attend to learn more about and help with the work they are doing. We also need to hold our elected officials accountable for their actions, and if you visit Planned Parenthood's website, they can connect you with your senator's office and provide a script so you know what to say.
Have you taken part in any of the recent women's marches?
Yes, I did, and I marched because it is important to show people around the world that our voices will not go unheard and that if we join together we can influence the change we want to see in this country. The Women's March on January 21 is a day I will tell my children about, as an example of our responsibility to be active participants in our communities and in the world.
What women, past or present, have been your biggest role models?I was very, very fortunate to grow up around my grandmother, my mother and her friends. They are smart; they are brave. They have overcome hardships and just keep getting stronger. They are all women who exhibit strong voices in the arts. I try to model my own friendships on, and surround myself with, women like these, and I have just the best, most inspiring group of girlfriends. I have learned bits and pieces from all of them that have shaped the woman I am today.
Is the future female?
Not just the future, but right now.
Text Zio Baritaux
All images courtesy We The Women