Introducing Shiloh Venable, “Out From Under The Rug” storyteller

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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.

Shiloh Venable is a native Texan, a feminist, an Aggie, and an amateur healthy eater. She loves her finacée and her pups, and can’t get enough of improv comedy or road trips. If you can’t find her in her kitchen, look for your nearest soapbox, and there she’ll be.

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Introducing Mayela Gutknecht, “Out From Under The Rug” storyteller

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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.

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Introducing Elise Bilodeau, “Out From Under The Rug” storyteller

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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.

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Introducing Valerie R. Peterson, “Out From Under The Rug” storyteller

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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.

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Introducing Scott Ross, “Out From Under The Rug” storyteller

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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.

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Introducing Sherry Merfish, “Out From Under The Rug” storyteller

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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. 

Fixated Facts:

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.”

Don’t miss Sherry perform on the Oral Fixation stage in the “Out From Under The Rug” Austin show on Monday, October 10th.

Introducing Carole Wall, “Out From Under The Rug” storyteller

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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. 

Fixated Facts:

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 Carole perform on the Oral Fixation stage in the “Out From Under The Rug” Austin show on Monday, October 10th.

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Our Eyes Are Fixed On: Emily Cortez

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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.

Fixated Facts:

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.”

Don’t miss Emily perform on the Oral Fixation stage in the “Out From Under The Rug” Dallas show on Wednesday, September 21st.

Our Eyes Are Fixed On: Clark Harding

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When his best friend makes the decision to end her pregnancy, Clark stays by her side and helps her through the emotions, grief, and acceptance she feels, and he tells us the touching story in “Out From Under The Rug.”

Clark Harding grew up in Homer, Alaska. He lives in LA, where he is a Visual Effects Artist for feature films and commercials.  A compulsive traveler, Clark made it to all seven continents before the age of 30 and will be returning to Antarctica this winter for the second time.

Fixated Facts:

What would you name the autobiography of your life? Strange Things Done in the Midnight Sun.

What is your favorite word? Exquisite, as in, “I find fit, older gentlemen to be absolutely EXQUISITE.”

If you could meet anyone, living or dead, who would it be? Sigourney Weaver

Name one thing you miss about being a kid: Playing with Barbies.

Sneak peak: “…It never occurred to me that the root of the problem is an inequality of gender, a lack of understanding of said inequality, and the imposition of a male experience on to a female issue. I thought I was being supportive, but really I was just going through the motions without really considering the context of what women go through.”

Don’t miss Clark on the Oral Fixation stage on Wednesday, Sept. 21.

Our Eyes Are Fixed On: Britt Payne

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Caught up in a brittle on-again-off-again relationship, Britt Payne learns that her pregnancy will not create the stability she longs for. Hear her emotional story in “Out From Under The Rug.”

Britt Payne is a Dallas native from a long line of Texans. She adores her husband, her hounds, and an ice-cold martini. A proud member of a cookbook club, she’ll talk grub any chance she gets. She prefers sunshine along with a rainy Sunday (a good excuse to cuddle up). 

Fixated Facts:

What inspired you to participate in Oral Fixation? This is such an important topic. I want to help move the conversation forward and hopefully help people see matters from a different perspective.

What do you want to be when you grow up? A mermaid.

What is your favorite Dallas hangout? Louie’s. That’s where I got engaged!

Name one thing you miss about being a kid: I miss the moments when time seemed to move really slowly- those long summer days. Now, time appears to be on warp speed.

Sneak peak: “Upon learning that I was pregnant, I was cautiously happy and extremely nervous. The reality of what I had done hit me like a ton of bricks. It became very real and I was flooded with so many thoughts and emotions.”

Don’t miss Britt perform on the Oral Fixation stage in the “Out From Under The Rug” Dallas show on Wednesday, September 21st.

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