Magic and flowers: Home Garden explores the difficult conversations surrounding having children

Continuing the UI workshop play series is Home Garden, a story of love and the decision to have a child.

Paige+Harken+performs+a+scene+during+the+dress+rehearsal+for+Home+Garden+on+Feb.+6%2C+2020+in+the+Theater+Building.+The+play+is+about+a+couple+that+tries+to+have+a+child+through+artificial+insemination.+%28Jake+Maish%2FThe+Daily+Iowan%29

Jake Maish for The Daily Iowan

Paige Harken performs a scene during the dress rehearsal for Home Garden on Feb. 6, 2020 in the Theater Building. The play is about a couple that tries to have a child through artificial insemination. (Jake Maish/The Daily Iowan)

Samantha Murray, Arts Reporter


Showing Friday and Saturday, the next play to be put on as part of the University of Iowa’s Theatre Department’s workshop play series will be Home Garden, written by Jivani Rodriguez and directed by Sydney Kuhel.

Rodriguez’s play was born out of what she described as a fever-like state during winter break last year. She was able to finish the first draft of the play before the break ended.

Home Garden tells the story of a middle-aged lesbian couple and their struggle with the decision to have kids. According to Rodriguez, it was very important for her to write about women who love each other without their sexuality being the main conflict of the play.

Rodriguez knew Kuhel and was friends with her before choosing her as the director. Rodriguez said there was a level of trust already there.

“I’ve worked with her a lot before, so we’re already kind of on the same wavelength, but I think she kind of approaches it from an actor point of view because that’s most of the work that she’s done before,” Rodriguez said. “I think she just has that kind of grounding.”

This is Kuhel’s first time directing, and although she said she was nervous at first, she was open to trying something new. She said her direction style allows for experimentation, and allows actors to feel out the scene themselves.

“It’s like the theater and theatre department is a safe space for everyone,” Kuhel said. “Everyone gets along really well, and it’s nice that everyone is allowed to have their own creative outlets and also to express their opinions, and it’s a collaborative space.”

UI student Paige Harken plays Cecily, part of the main couple in the show, whose passion and work revolves around her garden. Cecily and her wife, Linda, have a playful relationship despite Cecily’s stubbornness.

Harken said that she thought the play was unique, capturing a topic that she does not always see in plays. In addition, Harken is excited about what the genre brings to the play.

“The play, or the genre I guess you’d call it, is like magical realism. It’s a realistic play, but with elements of like magic in it,” Harken said. “There’s like this weird random magical flower that just kind of gets thrown into it, which is totally kooky but super fun.”

Rodriguez said she has found the process of her words coming to life to be almost dreamlike. She hopes audiences will be able to leave the theater feeling moved in some way or connected to the characters.

“Loving is difficult, and we have to be patient with one another,” Rodriguez said. “Let’s go and enjoy it.”

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