When Julia Jackson and her wife began the process of adoption, there was not much that could prepare them for the trials and tribulations they were about to endure. The process to provide a home through adoption is fraught with red tape, making the triumph of completing the process enough cause for celebration. But for all the joy that Jackson experienced with this new world, there was a story that stayed with her, a story she feels is not told enough.
“I had just become a mom through adoption myself, and it was such a profound experience, not just becoming a parent but the adoption process itself,” said Jackson. “I found that no one is speaking for the birth family. They were invisible in the dialogue and in the way we perceive adoption. But really, they are saints.”
Jackson is going heavy into telling that story beginning on Saturday, Feb. 15th, when her 90-minute solo show “Children are Forever (All Sales are Final)” opens at Stage Werx Theatre in San Francisco. Originally directed by W. Kamau Bell and now directed by Coke Nakamoto, Jackson’s story is fictional with a whole lot of personal truths, a piece she has been developing since 2009 when her adoption finally happened.
While Jackson had plenty of personal experience to draw from, one particular television show gave some amazing insight into what the process is really like.
“I hate to say it, but in the show “16 and Pregnant,” the very first season of that, one of the couples chose adoption,” said Jackson. “As ridiculous and stupid as that reality show is, it really did a good service showing what adoption is.”
What has inspired her solo piece is not only the difficulty of adopting, but the fact that the rules are so sublimely ridiculous. For example, and this is completely true – it is less expensive to adopt a black baby than a white baby.
That’s just one issue. As the refreshingly candid Jackson states, there is also the fact that Jackson describes herself, wife and son as a “Queer and transracial family.” So people will certainly stare.
“When you’re at a hospital, the nursing staff changes every eight hours, and when they look up, there’s mom and then there’s, ‘Who are you?’” said Jackson. “That’s awkward.
“People are just not used to seeing it. I grew up in the ‘60’s and ‘70’s in a biracial family, and people are going to stare. You just got to roll with it.”
Jackson, who has spent the past 20 years in the Bay Area as a comedian and is originally from Milwaukee, says the story is made up but very real. It’s an opportunity to tell everyone’s story in ways that are both funny and poignant. And the poignancy of the piece was helped in part due to an interview she read in regards to San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick and the circumstances of his adoption. It had nothing to do with Kaepernick’s birth mother. It had everything to do with the biological grandparents.
“My favorite character (in the piece) is the birth grandmother. When (Kaepernick) was placed for adoption in the 11th hour, the grandparents were heartbroken. It’s the extended family relationships we don’t consider. The title of this piece could be ‘Birth Families Are People Too.’ Once you go through the piece you realize how invisible they are.”
Aside from the fact that Jackson and her wife are guiding their son in life, they also realize they must negotiate two realities – the reality of his upbringing and the potential for him to explore further his circumstances when the time is right if he so chooses. Jackson learned certain lessons about privacy very early in the process.
“People get excited they are going to adopt, and they tell people things that they shouldn’t. My wife and I are kind of placeholders for him. When he is 16, he can decide if he wants to tell his story. You have to learn to have boundaries real quick, there is a steep learning curve.”
Jackson is certainly excited about where her piece has gone, and feels the balance between funny and dramatic has been struck. Her years as a comedian shaped her piece well.
“Comedians have an edge in their drama, we have an advantage there. In life, in the middle of some of the darkest s*** in the world, there is stuff that is just hilarious.”
WHAT TO KNOW IF YOU GO
Stage Werx Theatre presents “Children are Forever (All Sales are Final)”
Written and performed by Julia Jackson
Directed by Coke Nakamoto
Originally directed by W. Kamau Bell
Fridays and Saturdays from Feb. 14th to March 22nd
Tickets range from $15 – $25
Stage Werx Theatre
446 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94103
For tickets, visit this page.