Many thanks to the staff of Planned Parenthood who hosted the directors and members of the cast of The Cider House Rules on a recent research trip. Much of what follows is from a recent press release of theirs. A warm thank you especially to Angela Hickey, Melissa Fuller, Sarah Demmon, Danielle Terry, Deb Cherrin, and Desiree Cooper.
According to 2nd year MFA actor Andrew Papa, “The best kind of theater is the kind that compels people to talk to each other. ‘The Cider House Rules,’” he added, “is absolutely one of those shows.”
Papa plays the role of Homer Wells. As a graduate of Central Michigan University, he brings his personal life experiences to the epic play. “When I was in fourth grade, my family lived in Bangkok, Thailand for six months,” he said. “My father, a university professor, was doing research on child prostitution. It was a huge culture shock.”
Similar to Homer’s realization over the course of the play, Papa said the experience in Thailand opened his eyes to the fact that life is both difficult and complicated. “It changed how I perceive the world,” he said.
The chance to explore life’s complications on stage is part of what attracted Papa to The Cider House Rules, which pulls no punches when it comes to the consequences of unplanned pregnancies. “Some people might get up and walk out after act one; some will be angry,” he said. “But there will be many more who are moved by the choices the characters must face.”
Over the course of the drama, Homer’s character evolves from one who objects to abortion to someone who performs them. In an effort to understand the medical procedure and the emotional impact of performing abortions, Papa joined several of the cast members on a trip to Planned Parenthood’s Midtown health center.
“It was an eye-opening educational opportunity for me as a person and as an actor,” he said. “I had no idea about the counseling that Planned Parenthood offers and the access to contraception. People think of Planned Parenthood as an abortion mill. They don’t know about the wide range of services they offer.”
The session with Planned Parenthood, said Papa, “was very relevant to what I’m going to have to do on stage.” During the visit, he read one of Homer’s monologues to the staff where he described an abortion procedure. “They were able to affirm that’s how it would have been done in the 30s and 40s.”
He hopes the show will help people dig deeper into the hard realities of unplanned pregnancies. “I think Homer said it best when he said that you may not choose to have an abortion, but it’s your choice. You shouldn’t stymie other people’s choices.”
Not everyone will share that point of view, he acknowledged, but stoking a dialogue is the point of the play. “Knowing that some people may not support something that I’ve put my heart and soul into is hard,” said Papa. “But that’s what people at Planned Parenthood go through all the time.”