A NoHo Arts theatre review of “Breed or Bust,” written and performed by Joyful Raven, directed and developed by Joel Weisman, produced by Jessica Lynn Johnson at this year’s Hollywood Fringe Festival.
“Breed or Bust” is a perfect Hollywood Fringe play funny, clever, opinionated, purposeful, strategically graphic and absolutely brilliant.
Joyful Raven takes us on a tour of her life, with the focus on her reproductive life, or lack thereof. She navigates the personal choices and accidents that take all of us to the not-so-great position of what to do when the pee stick turns blue…
Most of us have been there, these days it’s become political, of course, but then what hasn’t? So, this show and any kind of conversation like it is even more vital. But Raven’s story isn’t political or contrived to fit our own collective and terrible present narrative, it is her own. Raven’s story, told in her gorgeous, warmly funny, significantly frank and beautiful way is such an important one. Especially to her of course, but also to us. Raven’s abortions, all meaningfully chosen and poignantly shared are moments in her life that mattered. They mattered to her and to the man who help them occur and they matter now to us, because in the sharing of these moments with us, Raven has done something very real.
She has taken us by the hand and allowed us into her truth. Not to feel bad, or even have an opinion, but to really listen and, in doing so, think deeply about how crucial it is to us all to have control.
It’s a difficult subject abortion. Although, if I’m honest, and Raven has demanded that of us all, I think, although abortions are difficult, talking about them shouldn’t be. Raven’s show isn’t just about abortions. It’s not the only thing in her life or her story. She was raised in a commune, she has a huge family because of it and she has the same fears and wants as the rest of us. She wants love, she fears being alone, she wants her own family. But she also wants her life to be on her own terms. As a woman. As a human. Not too much to ask is it, to choose when and how and even if to have a child?
Raven has taken her story and this now much bigger story of women’s health in America and the very real possibility of a nationwide ban on abortion, and very cleverly merged them. Importantly, she has given a face to them both. She created a show with one purpose and now, because of recent events, the purpose has shifted to include all of us, all of our stories.
Raven is a brilliant and gifted storyteller and performer. Using her genius whit and incredible stage presence, she talks us through the experiences of her abortions, the good and the very bad, what led to them, how she feels about them now, and we come away understanding all of it. We can all have our own reasons for doing and feeling the way we do about our bodies, and what happens to them, in as much as we have control over them at all that is! But the point is that they are our bodies, individually, uniquely our own. And what more an embodiment of liberty and freedom could anything ever be than our own individual self. Raven’s story is just a story about a woman who in her life has made choices. It shouldn’t be anything dramatic, or revelatory and yet it is.
Sometimes the bravest thing to do is to just to be who we are, proudly, with dignity and compassion. “Breed of Bust” is a brilliant, brilliant show, beautifully written and performed, and Joyful is a phenomenal storyteller.
Thank you for sharing yourself with us Raven!!
Running Saturday June 11, 9:45pm & Sunday June 19, 8:45pm
7456 Melrose Ave., West Hollywood, 90046