April Fossen has previously appeared in Plan-B’s MIASMA, SHE WAS MY BROTHER, MESA VERDE, LADY MACBETH, SUFFRAGE and NOTHING PERSONAL; many a SLAM; and the Script-In-Hand Series readings of 8, MARRY CHRISTMAS.
I admire polygamists. Not the Warren Jeffs variety, but the modern, Big Love-type folks. Consenting adults who are doing what we all do—working jobs, raising kids, doing their best to be good people—just with more than one wife. Okay, yes, I struggle with the patriarchal aspects of polygamy. But…those women. Here’s the thing: marriage is complicated. I never call it “hard” because I don’t think it is, just complicated. Juggling the disparate needs and wants of two people, or two people plus kids—that’s complicated. Adding god into the mix? What he/she/it wants/expects of you? That’s a whole new level of complication. And on top of that, add more wives? It’s mind-boggling. But that’s not even the reason I admire them—I guess with a good calendaring system a lot of things are more possible. What I admire is the self-sacrifice.
The generosity of spirit. I guess this is where I’d have to admit that I also admire people who can maintain open marriages or polyamorous marriages. I DO NOT know how they do it. Be willing to share your partner? Do it with love and understanding? Put the needs of your partner so far above your own? I honestly can’t wrap my brain around it. And I’ve tried. I’ve been thinking and talking about these aspects of marriage pretty much nonstop (apologies, friends and loved ones) for the past year, since I first read a draft of PILOT PROGRAM. I think what I’ve come to is that I identify as a monogamist. It’s so deeply a part of myself. I understand those who are not like me, but I can’t imagine being like them any more than I can imagine being a man. And I feel like it’s a flaw. That I’m that selfish. That I don’t love any other woman in the world enough to share my husband with her. That I don’t love my husband enough to put his needs above my own. That I’m not confident enough in what we have together that the presence of another wouldn’t feel threatening. (I should probably make a disclaimer here that my husband has never suggested that he wants anything other than what he has, he is also a monogamist—lucky me that things worked out this way)
So, Abby, this character I play. This sacrifice she makes (well, I see it as a sacrifice, I don’t know what the playwright would say, to be honest). I think she does it because she gains something from it. But I don’t know that it’s worth what she loses. I don’t know whether she’s like me, a monogamist, in her soul. I can’t ever completely understand her reasons for doing what she does, because I don’t have a god in my life or in my marriage. I would never do something because religious authorities asked me to. Never. I do understand doing something because your gut tells you to. And I know that I have intense respect and admiration for her. She weighs the alternatives, and finds that what her instincts tell her is “right.” And she’s prepared to deal with the consequences of the decision. She’s a smart woman. She knows exactly what she’s doing. But that decision changes the status quo so severely that it makes her question everything. And I guess that can happen in any marriage at any time. All sorts of events could cause that kind of life-changing decision to be made. In the end, is she happy? I have no idea. Every night I have a different opinion and experience. I’m fascinated to see how other people experience this story, because obviously it has deeply affected me.
Melissa Leilani Larson’s PILOT PROGRAM receives its world premiere at Plan-B April 9-19, featuring April Fossen, Mark Fossen and Susanna Florence Risser, directed by Jerry Rapier. Click here for more information and tickets (available April 16-19 only).