First Person: Ana Noguiera on Finding Pieces of Herself in Bump
Chiara Atik's play explores the emotional lives of women before and after pregnancy.
For better or for worse, the acting jobs I do often end up mirroring an experience I am having in my real life. Bump is no exception (no, I'm not pregnant).
For the last few years of my life, it's been babies, babies, babies. My older sister, and three of my best friends all became mothers. I was in awe of their certainty about the decision to start a family when, for me, it has always seemed like such a terrifying leap. When will I be ready? How do I get ready? What if I do it and then find out I wasn't actually ready? With all these questions swirling, Chiara's play appeared as somewhat of a gift from the collective unconscious.
I first met Chiara Atik in 2015 because we were both members of the Youngblood writer's group at Ensemble Studio Theatre. (For any out-of-work actors out there, I highly recommend weaseling your way into a writers' group and manipulating all the young and eager playwrights into letting you be in their plays. Only catch is, you have to have written a play.)
From the first play I saw of Chiara's — a two-hander about female best friends bonding and competing over a mountain of tortilla chips — I knew that her writing was for me. Chiara has a way of taking seemingly mundane interactions, areas of life that we often take for granted, and shining a light on just how special, hilarious, and heartbreaking they actually are — all with a (seemingly) effortless touch. My experience as an audience member watching her work can be summed up by, "Laughing, laughing, laughing — oh wait, I'm crying. When did I start crying? Why can't I stop crying?!"
Bump follows that same emotional path. It's a play about something we all too often take for granted — the nine months that a woman spends pregnant, waiting and preparing for perhaps the most intense experience of her life and all the fear, expectation, joy, and confusion that comes with it.
As children, we often see our mothers as The One With Answers, but we forget that there was a time before. A time when she was just one of us, confused and scared and certain she was gonna mess it all up. During those nine months that she transitions between being someone's child to becoming someone's mother, she must learn to give into the unknown, to the uncontrollable. To a micromanaging control freak like me, this sounds particularly terrifying.
I had never before seen myself in any artistic depiction of a pregnant woman. They always seemed either too much of a punch line, or too sentimental and false. But Chiara (like she always does) has constructed a whole spectrum of different kinds of women embarking on the journey of motherhood. I see bits myself in all of them: the ones who post obsessively on a message board, the young colonial woman who has no idea what is happening to her body, and my character, Claudia, who buries her anxiety in a well-constructed birth plan, only to learn that sometimes you just have to give over to nature. The play not only makes me feel seen and understood in my trepidations, but also makes me feel like I am part of something bigger.
Bump seems to be reaching out to women across time — myself included — and saying, like one of the characters in the play tells her fellow pregnant friends, "I did it. And if I can do it, you can do it."