Two years after The Blueprint Project, a solo piece about what it’s like to be a modern woman, Candy Simmons brings a fully realized version, simply called Blueprint, to the Red Eye Theater. After interviewing about 45 women across the state of Minnesota, and in Texas after the wake of Wendy Davis’ epic showdown over Planned Parenthood funding, Simmons reveals her investigation into the battlegrounds of reproductive rights and other feminist issues.
The initial workshop piece she presented at the Red Eye in 2013 was a chance for her to try out different ideas and formats, including audio montage and video, to see how much further she wanted to take those modes of production. “I learned the holes I wanted to plug,” she says of her process.
One of those holes was the issue of reproductive rights, so Simmons headed down to ground zero of the Planned Parenthood debate in Texas. She was scheduled to go to the Fusebox Theater Festival in Austin, so she stayed for an expanded period of time in order to conduct interviews in the city and other areas around the state.
In Austin, Simmons posted an ad on Craigslist, and also reached out to a pro-life blogger. The Catholic woman, Martina, lived in Round Rock, a suburb of Austin, and had spent time protesting at the capitol during Wendy Davis’ infamous filibuster. Simmons uses an audio sample of Martina’s voice in the show, and says that speaking with her helped her “understand the other side.” In the piece, she plays Martina, and attempts to embody her character without commenting on her viewpoints despite the fact that she disagrees with her.
Simmons also travelled to Texas Tech in Lubbock to meet with a woman who runs a women’s studies program there, and to speak with a local woman in that city about how the politics of the state affects her personally. Most of the grant money she received necessitated that the majority of her interviews take place in Minnesota, but using her own resources and crowd-sourced funding to travel to Texas provided a great opportunity to hear different experiences.
Since performing her initial workshop of Blueprint, Simmons also sought out women who had survived sexual assault. She did this mostly by contacting prospective interviewees via Facebook. “I wasn’t sure how to reach out to women,” she says. “I wasn’t going to go through a rape crisis center. There needed to be enough distance to their experience that it would be a positive thing to share their story with me, where they had already dealt with the experience and it felt positive to share it.”
Most of the women she interviewed who had experienced sexual assault were friends of friends. “It was upsetting how easy it was for me to get six women within a couple of days,” Simmons says.
Another big change from the workshop production is that the new iteration of Blueprint contains much more of Simmons’ own story. “As I started to go back in and do more interviews, it felt like it would make more sense to tell this story through my own experience, because that’s the story I know,” Simmons says. “Instead of trying to take on other peoples’ experiences, I decided to make it more personal by telling it through my voice.” She feels that using her own story grounds the piece. "Plus, these women were being really honest and vulnerable and open, so it wasn’t fair for me to be too easy on myself,” she says.
IF YOU GO:
Saturday, November 7-14
Red Eye Theater