Emma’s Child
by Kristine Thatcher*
Directed by Rodney Higginbotham
Spring 2001

THE STORY: Jean and Henry Farrell, after years of unsuccessfully attempting to have a baby of their own, decide to adopt. Emma, the birth mother, approves of the couple. Now a new waiting game begins: awaiting the birth of their child. To help Jean through, her best friend Franny comes for a visit, but brings more baggage than a normal traveler as she is separating from her husband, Sam. When the time arrives it is not a happy occasion however, as the baby, Robin, is born hydrocephalic, and will not live long. It was agreed that Jean and Henry would only accept a healthy infant, but Jean's investment in the waiting game was too intense and she falls for this child. The attention she pays to Robin not only threatens to tear her marriage apart—sending Henry away on a camping trip with the estranged Sam in a male bonding scene not to be missed—but causes trouble at the hospital as well: Jean has no parental rights, even though Emma has disappeared, and the administrators (despite what the nursing staff have to say) are wary. Eventually, after making some progress, Robin succumbs to his condition, leaving Jean and Henry, not only having to repair their marriage, but right back where they started—interviewing with a new birth mother. (The Dramatist Play Service, Inc.)
Act I
Sn 1: October, 1990. The middle-class Chicago home of Jean and Henry.
Sn 2: June, 1991. The Newborn Special Care Unit at Christ Hospital.
Sn 3: Jean and Henry’s home.
Act II
Sn 1: June, 1991. Jean and Henry’s Home.
Sn 2: End of June, 1991. The hospital.
Sn 3: Mid-June, three days after Robin's birth, 11:30pm  in Jean and Henry’s home.
Sn 1: July, 1991. Dr. Helen Arbaugh's office.
Sn 2: The hospital. Later that morning.
Sn 3: Return to the doctor's office.

(10 Minute Intermission)

Act IV
Sn 1: Woods beside Michigan’s AuSable River
Sn 2: The hospital.
Sn 3: The woods.
Act V
Sn 1: The hospital
Sn 2: The office of Family Resource Center, an adoption agency.
Sn 3: The hospital.

Director’s Note:
    Part of my attraction to Emma’s Child stems from my experience as the father of two adopted daughters. Upon my first reading of the script, my immediate reaction was to declare that it had the ring of truth about it. I’ve heard a lot of adoption stories told by parents. All are different, yet they all portray the experience as a long, emotional roller-coaster ride. Playwright Kristine Thatcher has accurately captured that experience and translated it into drama.
    At its root, this play is about a mother-to-be falling in love with a child. When my wife and I began the adoption process for our first daughter, a girl from another country, we were told that before we actually met her, we would receive one black and white photo, not much larger than a postage stamp. The adoption agency instructed us not to bond with the picture, as anything could change during the process right up to the adoption day. There would be many weeks of waiting with nothing to focus on but that little picture. Not bond with it? What a pointless instruction. The falling in love with our child-to-be began with that picture. It was the same all over again with our second child.
    The script of this play is written in a nonlinear form moving back and forth in time, often with seamless transitions between the events of the story. The play unfolds onstage in much the same way we sometimes recall big events in our lives, by replaying the memories, not necessarily in chronological order, but in whatever order we wish to relive the emotions associated with those memories. For those of you in tonight’s audience who are parents, I think you’ll readily understand the passion of the adoptive mother. Those of you who are parents of the future, sit back and experience a love story.
    *Kristine Thatcher began acting at 16 with a small professional company in her hometown, Lansing, Michigan. She went on to work at regional theaters across the country and, in 1985, she met her future husband when she was cast opposite him in a production of Tom Stoppard's The Real Thing, at the Northlight Theatre in Chicago.
    In the late '70s and early '80s, she acted and directed with the Milwaukee Repertory Theater. She volunteered to write a show based on the poet Lorine Niedecker's life and work. The result was her first full-length play, Niedecker.
    She has taught at Columbia College, Lake Forest College. Although long associated with theatre in Chicago, she was the artistic director of the Boarshead Theatre in Lansing, Michigan 2005 until 2009. She has since started her own professional theater company called Stormfield Theatre, which focuses on new works and works by living playwrights.

Henry (Daniel Ochoa) and Jean (Beth Jackson)

Emma’s Child And Our Time

I know a couple—Amy, a tall blond Scandinavian, and Rob, a short light German—who adopted a child from China. The process took 22 months before they got to meet their daughter, but they received photos of her development. They were in parental love before they even got to meet Mia, having named her 11 months prior. And when they brought the toddler to America, Amy was surprised at strangers' reactions. A woman asked, in a supermarket, "You married a Chinese?" No. "But this is your daughter?" Yes, she's adopted. "Ohhhhh! Then she's not really your daughter." Yes. She is my daughter. "Yes, but not your biological daughter." She's my daughter.

The relationship between an adopting mother and the child to be adopted is never quite comprehensible to those who have their children biologically. Another couple I know adopted a child from Canada, three children from Colombia, and then had two more in the usual way. The love Rosemary and Bob have for their six children has no biological divide. Again, outsiders don't understand. They expect the youngest two, who are considerably paler than the children from Bogotá, to be nearer their parents, but that just ain't true.

Emma's Child, by Kristine Thatcher, is a theatrical attempt to shed some stark light on this perplexing situation. But Thatcher isn't content to give us the easiest of issues concerning adoption. Her adoptable child, Robin, is a freak of birth. For the duration of the play, the child has an enormous head, swollen with hydrocephalus. Emma, the biological carrier to birth of Robin, willingly abandons the child to the hospital's intensive care unit. Jean, the adopting mother, spends as much time with the baby as she can, and Henry, the adopting father is fearful at the prospect of having to care for this high-maintenance infant.

Henry, like the real-life fathers Rob and Bob, is unambiguously in favor of adoption. However, Henry's  reluctance to accept Robin's horrific malady and the imagined future between father and son makes him pull out of any emotional attachment. And that is how Thatcher shines her stark beam on the tension at the heart of family life—here exacerbated by Jean's complete loving concern for Robin and Henry's continual reference to legalities that allow the couple freedom to not adopt. The dichotomy may be enough to destroy the marriage.

This family unit is paralleled by the hospital staff and administration. Laurence, a nurse, and Mary Jo, a nurse's aid, are delightfully human, and like Jean, they see in Robin a patient worthy of protection and nurture.  Similarly, Jean's friend gets it. The medical specialist seems mostly indifferent to the child except to explain what's scientifically possible and probable. The hospital administration, however, feels burdened by all the care Robin requires and is willing to expend such care as long as Social Services is willing to underwrite it.

What Thatcher has done goes well beyond the issues of adoption. She is writing about the question of human worth. Jean loves Robin. Robin is her child.  There is no ambivalence in Jean. She and Robin are a medieval Madonna and Child, and the play recalls that ubiquitous European image from a time when most European children were born with little hope of survival, a time that still, artlessly perhaps, exists in many countries throughout the world today.

Thatcher presents us with the dichotomy in our national dialogue concerning the infirm and old;  drug addiction and responsibility; roles of men and woman, husbands and wives; the state and the individual—the play is pregnant with all these issues, and the audience is the midwife that allows them into our world.

The play similarly suggests some other, abstract ideas. While Jean and Robin are more sympathetic than the other characters, the play doesn't simply come out against corporate culture that looks to the bottom line. Henry and the administrator of the hospital have reasonable positions. Love, they seem to say, cannot dictate hospital procedures; nor can love trump the difficulties inherent in caring for seriously ill patients—something has to give way. The answer to these practicalities may be simply, "Robin is Jean's child."
    The great Polish Nobel-Prize-winning poet Wislawa Szymborska, in a translation by Stanislaw Baranczak and Clare Cavanagh, has written the following:
    "Woman, what's your name?" "I don't know."
    "How old are you? Where are you from?" "I don't know."
    "Why did you dig that burrow?" "I don't know."
    "How long have you been hiding?" "I don't know."
    "Why did you bite my finger?" "I don't know."
    "Don't you know that we won't hurt you?" "I don't know."
    "Whose side are you on?" "I don't know."
    "This is war, you've got to choose." "I don't know."
    "Does your village still exist?" "I don't know."
    "Are those your children?" "Yes."
            -Patrick McGuire
             Senior Lecturer, English
             University of Wisconsin-Parkside


Elisabeth Jackson is thrilled to be working with such a phenomenal cast, crew and director for her fifth show at NEIU's Stage Center Theatre. She will be graduating in May with her Bachelor's in Communication, Media and Theatre and hopes to make a career in either Stage Management or working with children in theatre. She thanks her parents, family and friends for their continual love and support!

Daniel Ochoa is excited to once again be appearing at the Stage Center Theater after performing in 2009's An Inspector Calls. A Chicago native and member of the On The Spot Theatre Ensemble, Daniel has also appeared in Gorilla Tango Theatre, La Costa Theatre, and New Rock Theater productions, as well as several local collegiate and independent films. He would like to thank the cast and crew for being a blast to work with, his family and friends for their unwavering support, and Rodney for having faith in his ability to fulfill such a humbling and incredible role.

Carrie Ediger made her theater debut at age twelve in the Chicago Park District production of Peter Pan. As a freshman at North Park College she directed the Parkview Jr. League's production of You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown. After a hiatus of 25 years, Carrie enrolled in the NEIU CMT department and has since performed in productions of A Tale of Two Cities, Boy Gets Girl and The Way of All Fish. At home, Carrie is caregiver to her father who suffers from hydrocephalus. 

Tiffiny Blake has the Stage Center Theatre as her home away from home. She is thrilled to be back for another season.  She wants to thank Rodney, Jana, Jessica, John, Anna, Danijella, Javier, Beth, Dan, Rand, Caitlin, Bella, Roula, Carrie, Cara, Tony, Jullian, Ryan, and the Practicum class for all of their hard work.  Thank you to Chris for the constant support and encouragement.  Enjoy the show! 

Arbella Al-bazi would like to thank Rodney for the opportunity to be a part of the production of Emma's Child! She is honored to have a chance to work with such a talented cast! Most recently she worked as an assistant stage manager in the Stage Center's summer production of My Sister Eileen and also played Little Red Riding Hood in the Children's Theater Workshop production of Totally Red!  Arbella is planning on graduating in spring of 2012 with a bachelor’s  degree in Communication, Media & Theatre.

Rand Ringgenberg is very happy to once again be performing at the Stage Center Theatre, having been seen last fall as Dwight in Dead Man's Cell Phone. He has many, many theatre credits but some of his favorites include tap dancing in No No Nannette, doing drag in Hair, rumbling in West Side Story, and portraying the demented Michael in The Pillowman. He is also the proud author of several one act plays and a full scale musical which he hopes to see presented someday. Rand is also growing closer to completing his BA here at Northeastern as a Communication, Media and Theatre major with a theatre minor. Rand would like to recognize his siblings who have adopted children and commend all adoptive parents in the world who have made a difference in so many children's lives.

Caitlin Inman feels so blessed to be appearing in yet another Stage Center Theatre production. She will be graduating this Spring with a degree in Communication, Media and Theatre.  Caitlin would like to thank all of her friends, teachers, and family for their endless support

Cara Lawson is excited to be making her debut performance on stage in this year. In the last year, She studied acting both at Northeastern as well as Act One Studios. She hopes to continue her studies in acting as well as getting a degree in Psychology. She would like to thank the CMT department for giving her this opportunity, and she would also like to thank her family and friends for their endless support. She would also like to thank the cast and crew for sharing their talent, advice, and time in this very special production.

Tony Gasbarro is taking his fourth turn on the boards at the Stage Center in Emma’s Child, fresh off of his appearance in fall 2010’s Around the World in 80 Days, and his riveting performance in the role of “Ensemble Player 2.” He has also performed previously in Chicago with Point of Contention Theatre Company. Tony extends his gratitude to his fellow cast mates for inspiring him to greater effort in his role, to Rodney for the opportunity to play a complex character, and to you for your effort and interest to come watch us do our thing.

Roula Villis is excited to be back at stage center.  Most recently, she was seen in Around the World in 80 days as Aouda.  Previously, she had the opportunity to assistant stage manage Dead Man's Cell Phone which was a great learning experience. She has also worked as an extra in a few films so she can continue to learn and gain experience prior to graduation.  She would like to thank Rodney for letting her be a part of this production and the CMT department for giving her the chance to get more experience. And most important, the talented cast and crew that made this show possible. Also a special thanks to NP.

Production Staff_____
Director...............Rodney Higginbotham 
Stage Manager......................Danijela Krizan
Assistant Stage Manager............Javier Chavez
Scenic Designer...................Jessica Kuehnau
Costume Designer....................Jana Anderson
Light Designer...................John Rodriguez
Sound Designer..............Sean McCafferty
Wardrobe..................Caitlin Varpness
Sound Board Operator...............Lakena Figueroa
Light Board Operator...................Susana Luna
Running Crew..................Seden Odabas
Set Construction.................Theatre Practicum
Rodney Higginbotham (Director) holds an MFA in Theatre Directing from Southern Illinois University and a BA in Speech Education from Northeast Louisiana University. He has served as Managing/Artistic Director of the Stage Center Theatre and Acting Chair of the Department of Communication, Media and Theatre. He has directed several productions for the Stage Center and for professional, educational, and community theatres in Chicago-land.

Danijella Krizan (Stage Manager) is very excited to be a part of Emma’s Child. She would like to thank the department of Communication, Media and Theatre at Northeastern Illinois University.

Javier Chavez  (Assistant Stage Manager) is happy to once again work with the Stage Center Theatre. Having participated as an actor in A Tale of Two Cities, Totally Red, and Around the World in 80 Days, Javier was excited to work as Assistant Stage Manager for the first time. He would like to thank everyone in the incredible cast and crew for their contributions to Emma's Child.

Jessica Kuehnau (Costume Designer) is pleased to be designing her fourth season for the Stage Center Theatre and forth year as technical faculty for NEIU.  Since completing her MFA in Scenic and Costume Design at Northwestern University, Ms. Kuehnau has been designing sets and costumes for such notable theatres as Pegasus Players, Circle Theatre, Griffin, Lifeline Theatre, MPAACT, Adventure Stage Chicago, Metropolis Performing Art Center and Backstage Theatre.  She is also the resident set designer at North Park University and a founding ensemble member of Adventure Stage Center Chicago.

John Rodriguez (Lighting Designer) joined the theatre faculty at NEIU seven years ago and has been teaching courses in technical theatre as well as working as a designer on the Stage Center Theatre productions.  Most recent designs include Lucky Stiff, An Inspector Calls, Arms and the Man, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Lettice and Lovage, The Illusion, Electra, and Charley’s Aunt as well as Thymely Theatre’s productions of Taking Steps and Stage Door.

Jana Anderson (Costume Designer) has worked with the Stage Center Theatre for the last few years.  Her work has also been featured by numerous theatre groups including Redmoon Theatre, Light Opera Works, Irish Repertory Theatre, just to name a few prior to coming to the United States, Jana created elaborate costumes for classical opera productions at the Slovak National Theatre in Bratislava, Czechoslovakia.  When she is not preparing costumes for theatre productions, Jana is busy designing and creating unique haute couture fashions for individual clients in the US and Europe.

Theatre Personnel_____
Artistic and Managing Director........ Anna Antaramian
Theatre Bookkeeper................Joanne Cartalino
Theatre Manager.............Blagovesta Ranguelova
Newsletter Editor...............Kathleen Weiss
Assistant Theatre Manager................Tiffiny Blake
Assistant to Theatre Manager..............Carolyn Bernal
Box Office Manager..................Mike Jando
House Manager.............Caitlin Inman

Henry (Daniel Ochoa), Dr. Arbaugh (Carrie Ediger), Jean (Beth Jackson) Jean (Beth Jackson) , Henry (Daniel Ochoa) , Lawrence (Rand Ringgenberg), Mary Jo (Caitlin Inman), Vivian (Cara Lawson) Jean (Beth Jackson) and Franny (Tiffiny Blake)
Special thanks to
The Department of Communication, Media and Theatre Faculty and Staff, Katrina Bell-Jordan, Anna Antaramian, Patrick McGuire, Michelle Rodriguez, Joan Fantozzi (CNA/Medical Careers Coordinator at Wright College- One of the City Colleges of Chicago), and Carolyn Bernal.
This production of Emma’s Child is produced by special arrangement with The Dramatist Play Service, Inc.
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