Shiloh’s life has changed immensely since she was a college student. She came out of the closet to her family and friends, and now she is sharing her abortion story live, when the Austin “Out From Under The Rug” cast takes the Zach Theatre stage.
After having two abortions, each at a different stage of her life, Mayela reflects on her life and her choices. Hear her brave story in “Out From Under The Rug.”
Mayela Gutknect has a Master’s degree in Advanced Public Health Nursing from the University of California, San Francisco and a Bachelor’s degree in International Relations from Beloit College, Wisconsin. As a Public Health Nurse in San Francisco, she home visits with pregnant women and mothers with newborns to promote safety, bonding, and breastfeeding.
When she was 16, Elise Bilodeau had no idea what her future would look like. Later this month, she’ll take the Oral Fixation stage in “Out From Under The Rug” to share her story of how an experience she had as a teenager changed her life.
Elise Bilodeau is a transient liberal, who mistakenly made Dallas home. She works at an abortion clinic and volunteers with TEA Fund and DARCC. Her favorite acquisitions while living in the South include an affliction for cheese fries, a dog named Boo, tattoos, and an appreciation for “family” near and far.
After learning that the baby she is carrying has a condition that is 100% incompatible with life, Valerie R. Peterson chooses abortion. Her experience was complicated by Texas’s HB2 legislation, which led her to become an advocate for women’s reproductive rights. Hear her story in “Out From Under The Rug.”
Dr. Valerie R. Peterson was born and raised in Chicago. New to Texas, Valerie has personally experienced the effects of House Bill 2, which limited women’s access to abortion services. Valerie’s mantras are “just watch me” and “I Believe, I Trust, I Let Go.” She currently resides in Austin.
Scott Ross and his wife, Jeni, experienced the tragedy of a medically induced abortion due to fetal anomaly. Hear how this experience forever changed his life in “Out From Under The Rug.”
Scott Ross is a tech professional and father of three young daughters. He has lived in Austin for seven years with his wife, Jeni. He grew up in New Jersey, went to school at Boston University, and has lived in New York and San Francisco. He spends too much time on sports and making jokes.
In 1972, before the landmark Roe v. Wade decision, Sherry Merfish had an abortion at a clinic in New Mexico–the only state to offer an exception to U.S. anti-abortion laws. Hear her personal story in “Out From Under The Rug.”
Sherry Merfish has had a long career in advocacy and fundraising. Sherry holds a B.A. from the University of Texas, a M.A. in American Studies from USC, and a J.D. from the University of Houston Law Center. Sherry lives in Houston despite an extreme dislike of both mosquitoes and heat. She and her husband, Gerald, are the proud parents of two daughters, Brett and Beth.
What would you title the autobiography of your life? Champion of Women and Girls.
What inspired you to participate in Oral Fixation? I am committed to social change in a variety of ways. I wholeheartedly believe in advocating for women to emerge from the shadows to reclaim their reproductive history and the choices they have made. It’s harder to hate up close, once people identify an abortion story with a person they know, respect, and love.
What is your favorite smell? Simmering chicken soup with matzo balls, because it evokes memories of my maternal grandmother, Yetta, who modeled boundless love.
Who is your favorite cartoon character? Growing up in the 1950s, Brenda Starr stood out, because she actually had adventures and an occupation as a reporter!
Sneak peak: “The momentous, landmark Roe v. Wade decision, which would make abortion legal and which was argued courageously by Sarah Weddington, was mere months away. But as far as my situation was concerned, the decades of statutes criminalizing abortion were very much in effect.”
Carole Wall and her husband were excited to have a baby, but their lives changed forever after receiving devastating news during the 20-week sonogram. Hear Carole reflect on her experience with abortion in “Out From Under The Rug.”
Carole Wall was born and raised in Austin. She has a bachelor’s degree in Behavioral Sciences and a master’s degree in Liberal Arts. She is the Manager of Grants for Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas and the mother of a 6-year-old daughter.
What inspired you to participate in Oral Fixation? I welcome any opportunity to discuss abortion and the way my life has changed since I took control over telling my story. We can’t necessarily write the plot of our lives, but we can write the chapters.
What is your favorite word? Any curse word will do when my daughter isn’t around.
What do you want to be when you grow up? Fulfilled.
What is the weirdest compliment that you’ve ever received? I have had more than one dental professional comment on the strength of my tongue. I don’t think it’s actually a compliment, but it’s definitely weird.
Sneak peak: “Knowing that your daughter is dying is heartbreaking. When you are given the news that there is nothing that can be done to save your baby’s life, it feels like your soul has been ripped apart. But we had a decision to make.”
Don’t miss these upcoming stories told live @ ZACH Theatre, Austin, on Monday, October 10.
This fall, Oral Fixation (An Obsession with True Life Tales) sweeps out the shame with “Out From Under The Rug: True Life Tales of Abortion.” Powerful, personal stories, “Out From Under The Rug” will tug at your heartstrings with empowering tales from men and women whose lives have been affected by abortion and women’s rights activism. Taking the stage at the Zach Theatre on Monday, October 10 at 8 p.m., our storytellers will motivate, impact, and encourage audience members to join them in chipping away at the stigma of abortion. From clinic workers to women’s rights advocates, from brave young women to mothers and fathers dealing with tragedy, “Out From Under The Rug” will personalize stories that often get distorted by the political spotlight. In advance of the presidential election this November, our presenters will leave viewers with more understanding of real experiences from a variety of different perspectives. Do not miss this show! $25 tickets are on sale now! Keep an eye out for more details: storyteller profiles will be published in the coming days. First, though, some introductions are in order:
- Carole Wall was excited to have a baby but learned her daughter had a terminal condition 20 weeks into the pregnancy. Despite her grief, she elects to testify in the Capital and later forms a bond with Wendy Davis.
- After having two abortions, each at different stages of her life, Mayela Gutknecht lives her dream as a Public Health nurse in San Francisco.
- Scott Ross shares a husband’s perspective of the tragedy of of a medically induced abortion due to fetal anomaly, and how it changed his and his wife’s lives forever.
- Valerie R. Peterson chooses abortion after learning the baby she is carrying has a condition that is 100% incompatible with life. Her decision to terminate the pregnancy was complicated by Texas Bill HB2, so she becomes an advocate for women’s rights.
- In 1972, before the landmark Roe v. Wade decision, Sherry Merfish has an abortion at a clinic in New Mexico–the only location to offer an exception to US anti-abortion laws. Almost 40 years later, her daughter writes an Op-Ed called “My Mother’s Abortion.”
- After having an abortion as a teenager, Elise Bilodeau devotes her life to working in an abortion clinic and helping other women.
- Although she now identifies as queer, Shiloh Venable had an abortion many years ago and shares how this unique experience has shaped her life.
Join us on Monday, October 10, at 8 p.m. at the ZACH Theatre. $25 individual tickets are on sale now. More info to come on every storyteller as their profiles are published in the coming days. We can’t wait to see you there!
On Wednesday, September 21, hundreds of people packed into Dallas City Performance Hall to witness a moment in history. For the first time in Dallas, a group of men and women were set to share their own, true personal stories related to abortion. This special edition of Oral Fixation (An Obsession with True Life Tales), entitled “Out From Under The Rug,” was created, produced, and directed by Oral Fixation founder Nicole Stewart, who shared her own abortion story in the OF show, “Bun in the Oven,” and felt compelled to push the envelope even further: an entire show of stories about abortion. Her hope: humanize this hot-button topic that has been stigmatized and moralized, and in this election year, open up a space where a conversation can begin. “It is time to #SweepOutTheShame of abortion,” Nicole has said. And given the crowd that showed up for #OutFromUnderTheRug, she is far from alone in her thinking.
Emily Cortez struggled with feelings of shame and isolation, knowing that she was not prepared to have a child. Hear her personal story in “Out From Under The Rug.”
Emily Cortez is a third generation Texan from Dallas. Her hobbies include reading, writing, playing her flute and the occasional attempt to learn new cooking recipes. Currently, she keeps busy by running an online vintage boutique called 829 Vintage and is launching a project to help Mexico fight poverty.
What’s your favorite part about Oral Fixation? Raw, emotional performances. Every story keeps you on the edge of your seat.
What inspired you to participate in Oral Fixation? I felt like it was important to show a woman who was sure of her decision, especially because I am Catholic and Hispanic. Our traditions are a bit outdated; I want women to know there are other options and choices in their lives.
Who is your favorite cartoon character and why? Muttley from the Hannah Barbara cartoons. I think I laugh just like him (or so I have been told).
What is your favorite Dallas hangout? Wild Detectives and The Great American Hero (the best sandwich place ever).
Sneak peak: “There was an ongoing struggle within myself as to whether I should be feeling guilty or not. I felt the guilt reemerge sometimes because I realized there was no guilt anymore.”