Reproductions: A performance of chosen stories by Shelby Swafford

Reproductive justice was the theme of a show called Reproductions which premiered on March 24 at the Kleinau Theater.

A one person show performed by Shelby Swafford, the director and a communication studies instructor, the show blends together archival video footage and personalized anecdotes to bring viewers a show about what stories we deem important enough to tell and why. 

“The right to have children, the right to raise children safely, thinking about this broad idea of reproductive justice raises themes like environmental racism or anything that might endanger children,” said co-director Craig Gingrich Philbrook.


Philbrook said the idea for the show came from Swafford’s dissertation on reproductive justice

Philbrook said the rights of children, the right to a legal and safe abortion and rights for same sex couples were other ideas Swafford explored.

Swafford also reenacted various scenes and portions from Kleinau shows past. 

She told the story of how Kleinau hung the door of the theater and how, after speaking to a builder, she found out it was a myth.

“She tried to overlap the themes, for instance there are a number of times she talked about doors and the experience of getting burned and it’s important to think about that in the historical context of the theme,” Philbrook said. 

Swafford  also told various stories about her childhood, how she kept moving around to different homes and how her parents told her about where babies came from. Her story included how her brother had impregnated a woman and how her parents explained it to her to prepare her for another sibling. 

A reenacted scene from “Nursing Mother,” a play by Elyse Pineau, highlighted the struggles of a pregnant mother attempting to deliver her baby naturally instead of via C-section. 


Swafford spoke about the mother giving away her permissions to the sacredness of her body and allowing it to be probed by physicians, professionals and other medical staff if only to avoid being cut open.

There was also a singalong to a song called “Coming out of the Kitchen with Vengeance” from a show called “If This Guitar Could Talk” by Elizabeth Whitney

Audio designer and technical director for the Kleinau Theater Devin Collins played the guitar while Swafford sang and led the audience in the chorus. 

A scene from “Refreshment,” a play by Philbrook, highlighted the Moment of Silence for victims of HIV and AIDS during a gay pride parade. The scene is about Philbrook’s quest to obtain raspberry sorbet. During this quest, he discovered a broken open container of sorbet that turned out to be someone’s blood. 

Swafford spoke about how even during celebrations of pride, the LGBTQ+ community as well as their allies had to be aware and afraid of violent anti-gay protestors. 

She spoke about how, after the protestors left and the ants started feeding, they wouldn’t know this was blood and they would have no idea who it belonged to. 

A scene from “Upon Hearing the News,” a play by Rebecca Walker, explored the complex layers of grief when losing someone you love. 

Spinning a chair, Swafford mused on different questions as she replayed a loved one’s revelation of dying and life after they were gone, struggling to come up with answers and coping mechanisms. 

Swafford closed with a selection called “This is a Ghostlight” featuring the plays “Toil and Rubble by Lindsay Greer and Suicide Punchline by Jen Tuder.

Swafford explained how the ghosts of the past still echo in the halls of the buildings and the theater as well as how the theatergoers are all connected and continue to further the history of these performances and the Kleinau legacy. 

Although she might be leaving SIU soon, Swafford said she would always remember the family she made in Southern Illinois and the deep love she has for her friends and the Kleinau. 

Audience participant Jonny Gray said he couldn’t even begin to say what his favorite part of the show was because there were so many good parts.

“When you’re living your life, you forget about the history you’re making but then something comes along and shows you all of it strung together,” Gray said.

Gray said he would definitely recommend coming to see the show because it’s an important piece of history.

“When you’re unaware of the history behind this theater, it’s interesting to come especially because it helps you learn from and about the past,” Gray said.

Staff reporter Joel Kottman can be reached at [email protected] and on Twitter: @JoelKottman. To stay up to date with all your Southern Illinois news, follow the Daily Egyptian on Facebook and Twitter.