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Birth Play

When Victoria Baecker agreed to act in Birth, which was performed at Russell Sage College last Sunday (Sept. 30), she didn’t know a whole lot about maternity care and different birth options. “I just kind of thought, you give birth with an epidural in a hospital on your back,” she says.

Birth, by Karen Brody, tells the true stories of eight different births, from home births to planned c-sections. Baecker, a former theater major who was invited to participate by co-director Sarah Eiley Cowherd, a fellow Russell Sage alum, quickly came to appreciate one of the main messages of the play, which, she says, is “You do have these other options. You can use a midwife, you can use a doula. [The directors] said if they got that through to one person, the play would be a success. Well, they got one on the first day of rehearsal.”

After a few rehearsals, Baecker went to see her OB because she was thinking of getting pregnant. She says the OB was “very short” with her and seemed to belittle her for taking up her time with such questions. Baker changed doctors. If it weren’t for the play, she says, she might have stayed, like one of the characters who reasons “Birth is just one day. I can be around someone I don’t like for just one day,” and then ends up with complications from a probably unneccesary c-section.

Birth was performed around the country throughout September as part of a movement the playwright calls BOLD (Birth on Labor Day) to “make maternity care mother-friendly” and support women’s right to make informed choices about birth options without judgment.

Many of the actresses chose to participate because they wanted other women to have access to information they had found on their own. “When I had my son, I had to do all this research on my own,” says actress Courtney Troeger. “The practice I was with had midwives, but they didn’t tell me. I had to coax it out of them.”

Birth raised funds for the local nonprofit Birthnet. It was accompanied by “Red Tent” events where women gathered to tell their birth stories; the videotaped stories will be sent to the head of OB education at Albany Medical Center. Talkback panels with local midwives also followed the performances. Katie Cartwright, a doula and actress in the play, said she was impressed by the depth of the questions. “People are really starved for real information about what is out there, about real evidence of what is better for mothers and babies,” she said.

The backdrop for the Troy performance was a section of a quilt with squares dedicated to mothers who have died of pregnancy- or childbirth-related causes. Organizers were inspired to bring the quilt after reading about a local woman who died during a c-section. “A lot of the risk has been taken out of birth,” explains co-director Alyssa Colton. “Now, the reasons why it isn’t safe [are] often unecessary interventions.”

—Miriam Axel-Lute

On view at Landscapes for Landsake: Harry Orlyk’s Winter Convoy.

To be featured on Art 21: Manglano-Ovalle’s Cloud Prototype No. 1.

Art Beat

SHARE THE LANDSCAPE The 6th Annual Landscapes for Landsake art exhibit opens Saturday (Oct. 6) with a free wine and cheese reception from 3 to 6 PM at the historic barn at Maple Ridge (172 State Route 372, Coila). Works by 21 jury-chosen artists will be featured, including Dona Ann McAdams, Leah McCloskey, Harry Orlyk and, um, 18 more. Half of the proceeds from the art sales will benefit the Agricultural Stewardship Association, and thus this organization’s land conservation work. The exhibit will also be available for viewing Oct. 7-8 and 13-14 from noon to 4 PM, or by appointment. For more info, call 692-7285 or visit

TV ON THE ART MUSEUM SCREEN The Clark Art Institute will be previewing the “Ecology” episode of the acclaimed PBS contemporary art series Art 21 on Wednesday (Oct. 10) at 7 PM. This documentary features four artists: Ursula von Rydingsvard, Iñigo Manglano-Ovalle (a Williams College alum who will be speaking at her alma mater on Oct. 10), Robert Adams and Mark Dion. After the screening, there will be a discussion facilitated by MASS MoCA curator Denise Markonish, Clark assistant curator Danielle Steinmann and Williams College assistant professor Ondine Chavoya. For more info, call the Clark at (413) 458-9545.

A SPECIAL 1ST FRIDAY EVENT It’s that time of the month again: Tomorrow (Friday, Oct. 5) is another 1st Friday extravaganza in downtown Albany. In addition to all the usual wonderful events at Albany museums and galleries, the Ten Broeck Mansion in Arbor Hill (Ten Broeck Place, Albany) will host the 4th annual Summer in the City Youth Talent Exhibit. This will showcase “performing arts, multimedia, poetry, cultural and political knowledge projects” created this summer by Albany youths. The fun starts at 5 PM; admission is free; and 1st Friday “trolley” (c’mon, without wires or tracks or a trolley wheel, it’s a damn bus) service to the mansion will run every half-hour until 9:30 PM. For more info, visit


DEADLINE EXTENDED Historic Albany Foundation has extended its call for original artwork for its upcoming (Nov. 3) one-night-only show (at Albany’s Cathedral of All Saints on South Swan Street) to Oct. 15. This is the fund-raising event formerly known as Vacancy, which now emerges, retooled, as Built—Albany’s Architecture Through Artists’ Eyes. Previous shows centered on works inspired by vacant buildings—and heaven only knows we have enough of those—while this show welcomes works inspired by any element of Albany’s built environment. (“Built environment,” for you lay people, is planning/preservation talk.) What’s in it for you, the artist? If accepted, you will receive 60 percent of the price of any displayed work sold; you get a free ticket (worth $50) to the event, and can buy additional tickets at a discount; and your work will be judged by the very worthy Sharon Bates and Robert McBride. (First prize is $500.) Interested? For more info and to obtain an entry form, call 465-0876 ext. 10 or e-mail


AN IBERIAN EVENING Early music ensemble Musicians of Ma’alwyck are gearing up for their fall concert season. No, the complete schedule isn’t available yet—keep checking our Night & Day calendar section for updates—but one popular event has been announced, and timeliness requires you know about it now. Why? Because the last Musicians of Ma’alwyck dinner-and-concert event at Schenectady County Community College (Schenectady) sold out quickly. This year’s Spanish-themed event on Nov. 13 will feature a tapas menu (prepared by the SCCC culinary department), Spanish wines and a program of music for guitar, violin and cello. Dinner is at 6 PM in the Van Curler Room; the concert is at 8 PM in the Lally Mohawk Room. The event is $50 per person, and you can reserve your tickets by calling SCCC bookstore (during regular business hours) at 377-1606. For more info the Musicians of Ma’alwyck season, call 377-3623 or send an e-mail to

—Shawn Stone

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