Lisa Loomer’s play ROE is narrated in turn by Sarah Weddington (the attorney who argued the case of Roe v Wade) and Norma McCorvey (the plaintiff otherwise known as Roe).
Sarah Weddington played by Tracy Liz Miller (She/Her)
When asked about her connection to Sarah Weddington, actor Tracy Liz Miller stated that “I am ambitious and driven, but certainly not to the extent that Sarah Weddington is. That drive is what makes her who she is and how she was able to get the things done that she needed to get done.”
Sarah Weddington was only four years out of law school when she argued Roe v Wade, and she remains the youngest person ever to have argued a successful case at the US Supreme Court. It was an overwhelmingly male profession when Sarah entered the University of Texas Law School in 1964, she was one of only 40 women among a student body of 1,600.
“Sarah soulfully and purposefully had a mission that she decided upon fairly early in her life, and I guess that is something I have in common with her because I’ve always pursued the performing arts, mainly theatre, and haven’t changed that path since I declared a major as a freshman in university.”
Tracy, who has built a theatre career around portrayals of strong women and advocates for women in the arts, goes on to explain: “What I do have in common with Sarah, is that I just can’t imagine myself doing anything else and surround myself with other individuals who just know in their hearts what they want to be doing. I think that’s been key to her drive and her steadfastness.”
Sarah Weddington continues to advocate for women’s rights to this day. After Roe, in 1973, she was elected to the Texas House of Representatives, where she served for three terms. From 1978 until 1981, she served as advisor to President Carter, directing his administration’s work on women’s issues. She now runs the Weddington Center, Austin, whose work focuses on women and leadership. Tracy is inspired by this and states that “I hope I am as diligently engaged as she is, I try to be, but she was uniquely positioned to be the go-to for any sort of reproductive rights movements so people contacted her all the time.”
“At this time our country is being pushed to really closely examine how things were and how our history was written (or not written) and I think that this plays to the strengths of the play. Lisa Loomer has created a play that broadens the topic of Roe v Wade,” Tracy continues. “It’s not a boring courtroom drama by any means. The play isn’t dogmatic. It includes so many different points of view and I think that’s pretty marvelous to be doing it at this time.”
Norma McCorvey played by Tara Franklin (She/Her)
“When I first read this script, the thought that I would be considered for the role of Norma never crossed my mind. I didn’t feel as if I had anything in common with her.” said actor Tara Franklin, who you may have seen recently on stage at Chester Theater Company where she is a regular actor, as well as Associate Artistic Director and Director of Education.
Norma McCorvey is certainly hard to pin down as a character. She was in her early twenties and pregnant with her third child when she agreed to be the plaintiff in Roe v Wade. Norma had grown up in poverty, been abused as a child and was sent to juvenile detention for being sexually intimate with another girl. She struggled with depression and drug and alcohol abuse her whole life. After Roe became law, Norma became the darling of the pro-choice feminist movement and she basked in the attention that spotlight afforded her. Then, after a religious conversion and baptism by Operation Rescue’s Flip Benham, Norma shifted her entire stance on abortion stating that her involvement in Roe was “the biggest mistake of [her] life.” In a deathbed confession before she died in 2017, Noma made another shift stating that she said she had been paid for her anti-abortion activism, and it had been “all an act.”
Despite all this, Tara explains that: “The more time I spend with her, working on the role and this story, the more I sensed a connection with Norma. She has a determined spirit and a love of people, which I know to be true of myself. Norma’s ability to find humor, even in the direst of situations, is my favorite trait. As an actor, it’s when she lets that guard down and becomes vulnerable that is particularly challenging and exciting to play.”
Tara also feels the urgency of presenting ROE at this time saying, “The current administration, and those who support it, pose a real and serious threat to many of the freedoms that have been hard won in this country. As long as there are people out there who want this law overturned, this story is important to tell. Living in this very liberal part of the United States, I feel that woman’s right to choose can be taken for granted. We read in our history books about Roe v Wade, but it’s telling a story through the personal triumphs of these trailblazers that really lands. This play does just that and it’s crucial that we all understand the consequences of what a full reversal of this law would mean.”
For more about Sarah Weddington’s stance on ROE, check out her book “A Question of Choice”
For more about Norma McCorvey’s stance on ROE check out her books “I am Roe: My Life, Roe v Wade and Freedom of Choice” (co-written in 1994 with Andy Meisler) and “Won by Love” (co-written in 1997 with Gary Thomas).