By Flavia Francesquini
The first lesbian movie I ever watched was Claire of the Moon. While in 1992 it was still exciting to see lesbians on the big screen, I hated the movie. I was young and just coming out then and although I wanted to see hot women making out, I didn’t want their sexuality to be the plot. I wanted the fact that they were lesbians to be something we understood and even appreciated, but not a big enough deal to become the actual reason for the movie. I longed for the day that our community would be portrayed in the main stream as we really are, people with hopes, talents, problems, dreams and everything else that puts us in the same category as anyone else, humans. Yes, we have come a long way!
Lori Ada Jaroslow subscribes to a similar concept. Her musical, The Baby Project, started out as a one-woman play and it has slowly grown into a wildly creative musical. The small ensemble of five incredibly talented actors take on several roles during the time that it takes us to get to know Dana Jacobson and her unique journey. Dana is a single, 40-something Jewish woman from New York who decides that Los Angeles would be a good place to settle down and start a family. As she starts on the winding road of medically-assisted fertility we are all taken along for the ride and the real question becomes what exactly constitutes family.
Jaroslow’s own life can be told as an adventure. She is one of those people that come to mind when we hear the words extremely talented. She sings, writes, acts, directs and teaches. Add to that list everything associated with raising a teenager and you start to get the picture. Originally from New Jersey, Jaroslow spent most of her life smack in the middle of the theatre district of New York City. About fourteen years ago she, like her character Dana, headed west with all her spunk, hopes and dreams.
While she perfected her skills by taking writing classes at UCLA and working her way into the LA theatre community, becoming a mother was always on her mind. She recalls, “I had tried insemination in NY and then again after I moved but it just didn’t work out. I started thinking about others ways I could become a mom. Adoption seemed like a good way to go.” As she started looking into adoption, life took a different turn and she postponed her plans for the next few years. However, a desire as strong as that of being a mom never really goes away and she found herself thinking that “if I don’t do this now I’ll be 90 by the time I have a kid!” This is when she got seriously involved with The Children’s Bureau in Los Angeles, which has been dedicated to helping children in need for over a century.
The process of becoming a legible foster parent can be grueling. Jaroslow compares that to her initial approach to becoming pregnant, “The agency is very thorough when making decisions and so are doctors… first there were people checking my hormone levels and then it was my annual income. Either way it can be a very humbling experience.”
The life of an artist can sometimes translate into periods of unstable income and that was one of the hurdles Jaroslow had to overcome, “I was very determined at this point so I got a steady job as a music teacher.”
Although she was originally looking for a kid between the ages of 5 and 11, she was presented with the records of 16 year old Samantha. Teens come with their own set of challenges, especially those who have bounced around in the system for a while, but the more she read Sam’s file the more convinced she became that this would become her child. Jaroslow was a substitute teacher then and it gave her a new perspective, “I was in touch with so many kids who needed help. There were kids having babies, kids on the streets… it impacted me!”
Samantha went to live with Jaroslow in August of 2011 and her adoption became finalized last July. As it turns out, this is a great match! Jaroslow loves being able to juggle her life at home with her life as an artist and things are happily moving forward.
In The Baby Project we can expect to hear – and feel – the impact of Jaroslow’s personal journey into parenthood. It is currently scheduled to open by the end of January 2013 but Jaroslow is still looking for funding. The Road Theatre (Jaroslow’s production company) received a National Endowment for the Arts grant for $20,000. “This is a huge honor,” says Jaroslow, “but the theatre is required to match the grant.” They need to raise $20,000 by December 20, 2012. All donations are tax deductible and no donation is too small.
Whether you are in the LA area or not, you can make sure this baby goes from crawling to walking. We need art and we need to be represented in all art forms. Dana Jacobson is the character I had been waiting for all these years! Her bisexuality is not what moves the story along, it is not the reason for the plot, it’s not even that big a deal. But her story is one that reflects the journey many of us have taken, whether we are straight or not, and that ends up being the point. Our community is still teaching the world what constitutes family. We need all the examples we can find to show that love is the main ingredient, not legally assigned roles. When we support this project, we support the concept that we are all out there in the big scary world looking for the same thing, acceptance.
For more performance information on The Baby Project (sample some of the show’s great music!) and how you can help (watch a video of Lori and Sam), go to: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1724395194/the-baby-project and http://projectbabymusical.com
Photos courtesy of Lori Ada Jaroslow