Imagine a country where women held the majority of seats in government.
That is what Mary Adkins LAW ’10 did while writing “The 49 Project,” a play in which corrupt female officials abuse their power by discriminating against men, until one man stands up for his rights. Adkins’ play debuted in August at New York City’s International Fringe Festival, the largest multi-arts festival in the country.
But Adkins is not only theatrically inclined. After graduating from Duke, the writer found a literary home in Brooklyn, yet still longed to work on one of her other passion projects — representing those afflicted by domestic violence. Now, as a third-year law student, Adkins is directing Yale Law School’s Domestic Violence Clinic, which combines direct legal representation of survivors of domestic violence with community outreach and education, as she continues to pursue playwriting in her spare time.
The playwright, who moves fluidly between the legal world and the theater community, spoke to the News about the production of “The 49 Project.”
QHow did you become involved with Fringe Festival?
AI started writing a play, “The 49 Project,” after college and before law school. Last fall I picked the draft up again and decided I would try to revise it and give it a shot. It was November and the applications weren’t due until December so I decided I would work on it for a couple more months.
QHow would you describe the show?
AWomen are currently 51 percent of the population, and in the world of the play they have achieved proportional representation of government in this alternate universe. Eventually, they enact policies that discriminate against men and male advocacy groups start to be formed. One man has been working for a long time and he is tired and ready for some sort of sign of physical change so he basically comes up with this scheme to challenge a new law. The rest of the play is about what happens and how it slowly unfolds as we figure out what the scheme is.
QWhat should an audience member take away from the experience of seeing “The 49 Project”?
AI started the play trying to imagine what a world would be like where women are in power, and I went in with the preconceived notion that it would be very different from our own. What I ended up writing was a play about how the law is very limited, especially when it comes to changing human behavior. That’s definitely what I hope is the message in the play. It’s about the limits of law and also the importance of not letting a person’s ethical sensibility become synonymous with their political views. Politics is not morality.
QFringe is a very important festival for young artists. What was your experience like working on the show in that context?
AIt was very exciting. I worked with Marshall Pailet ’09, who directed the show, and Jack Thomas ’80, who is also a graduate of Yale College and produced the play. Two of the cast members also went to Yale so it was a very Yale-heavy production. It was a lot of fun, but we only rehearsed for three weeks. The rehearsal period was a complete whirlwind.
QHow did your interest in playwriting begin?
AI started writing plays in college and then I moved to Brooklyn after to write plays while bartending. I decided to apply to law school after that.
QAfter spending time in Brooklyn as a budding writer, why did you decide to apply to law school?
AI am directing the Domestic Violence Clinic, and I really like doing that kind of work. I wanted to be able to do something concrete like that, which isn’t to say I wanted to set writing aside altogether. But I basically applied because of the Domestic Violence Clinic.
QYou mentioned that being both a student and writer is demanding. How do you balance your two passions?
ANot very well. I balance them in chunks. I will decide that this weekend I’ll work on a creative project and then I’ll work on law for a few days, but I don’t do very well with doing both at the same time.
QAre you working on anything currently?
AI just started writing a new play about two brothers so hopefully that will come to something.