THE GENE LOTTERY (will be in residence at the Barn Arts collective this september!)
If you would like to hear more about this project please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
written by Kristy Dodson and Sofiya Cheyenne Perez
conceived and directed by KRISTY DODSON
The Gene Lottery (a title inspired by Cameron Russell’s TED Talks) investigates cultured and cultivated fears that have become the definition of being wholly human. In The Gene Lottery, Angela and Clint Diffee struggle with their self-identity as little people as they decide whether or not to undergo genetic testing to determine the likelihood of dwarfism in their future child. The Mailman - a black male in his unabashed nude form and the audience’s interlocutor - guides us through this non-linear mash-up of Angela and Clint’s kitchen-sink drama, interspersed with stories of history and legend.
Nearly a year ago, a friend of mine, who happens to be a little person and I were having lunch. She and her long time boyfriend, also a little person, had just gone through genetic testing to find out the possible outcomes of their future children. She was in a pretty passionate state, but not for the reasons I was thinking. It was very unlikely that she and her boyfriend would have a child with dwarfism. However, she informed me that there was a group of French researchers that believe they’ve found a way to prevent achondroplasia, the most common form of dwarfism.
Stéphanie Garcia and colleagues developed a synthetic form of the protein FGFR3— and injected it into mice with achondroplasia-like characteristics. They found that this synthetic protein prevented the mutant gene receptor from functioning, which allowed bones to grow normally. Garcia and her team had been invited to attend Little People of America (The LPA) conferences around the country. She was in search of individuals looking to get pregnant as her first human subjects, essentially asking future parents if they would like to insure they have a child that won’t experience life in the way they have, or , according to my friend, potentially ridding the world of their experiences generation by generation.
Using the word “ridding” is a strong one and certainly not one that I would have used in that moment in time, but it sparked in me a deep curiosity about why I struggled to understand why this procedure was a bad thing. Shouldn’t parents at least have the choice to do such a procedure? If you could prevent your child from having all the surgeries and possible medical issues that people with dwarfism sometimes endure, why should you feel bad about taking it? I couldn’t understand it but everything in me knew that my friend was right, that somehow this was another form of potential genocide, because the person I loved, directly in front of me who has experienced it, was telling me it was so. In order to understand my friend’s impassioned and urgent position I began interviewing an array of little people from all around the country, as well as scholars, medical professionals, and sexologists, one of whom, Dr. Marylou Naccarato, said to me, “Change your perception and work out the details later.” So that is what I am doing.
Are there no advantages to shortness? Why must people with dwarfism be forced to justify their own lives as well as struggle with the moral responsibility of deciding for their and others’ unborn children? After a great deal of research, my questions have morphed a bit. Namely, given the inevitable appearance of new mutations, I no longer feel apprehensive about the disappearance of my friends from our planet. No field could ever keep track of all the genetic differences that can cause dwarfism. So they are stuck with the differently-abled “we.” The universal’s we’s perceptions, judgments, and limits placed on them by us. So the real question is: why is it so impossible for the normalized-bodied population (myself included) to imagine a differently-abled perspective, when we are able to imagine such an array of other perspectives? Perhaps because we haven’t yet seen it in the flesh.
By LIZA BIRKENMEIER
Directed by KRISTY DODSON
A LITTLE DITTY BY LIZA:
Bit, a Danish exchange student at a South Florida arts school, is obsessed with seventeenth century Canada. She is making a Claymation film about its brutal trading of Parisian girls. She is continually pushing unsubtle advances upon Wilkin, her artistic collaborator (and senior heartthrob who does not share the attraction). Otto, Bit's unwitting host, has been preoccupied with haunts of The Pigman. He began appearing on the porch, but has recently ventured into the house, snacking on stale food and giving Otto physical examinations. All the while, Otto's lover Chadic is in faraway places, working for U.S. cyber security. She is fixing or causing internet outages, remembering and forgetting things, coming to terms with her curse, and wondering if she'll ever come back home. THE HOLLOWER is a haunt-comedy about how crowded isolation can be.
THE HOLLOWER has been selected by Lincoln Center Director's Lab as one of six new works from around the world for a three week development residency this July! Check back here for updates!