What if you could grow a baby in a jar and take it out when you were ready to raise it? That’s the central concept in the one-act play Nine Months is an Arbitrary Number being staged during this year’s Ignite Festival.
The play, a dark comedy written by Adam Hunter Collier, is set in an alternate universe where it is possible to grow a baby in a jar over any length of time. It focuses on a young woman who decides to go through the process of growing a child without consulting her boyfriend, choosing instead to steal a lock of hair to get his DNA.
“It’s that idea of wanting to have a child but not wanting to go through the process of actually rearing it,” says director Alan Johnson, who compared it to how some people buy puppies because they love the idea of having a puppy before realizing how much responsibility it is and then putting them up for adoption.
“Throughout, the woman talks about how she doesn’t feel like she’s having a child because she isn’t going through all the normal steps of pregnancy,” Johnson explains. “She doesn’t feel it kick or move, she doesn’t get nauseous, she doesn’t grow.”
Johnson says dealing with the jar was an interesting and challenging aspect of producing the play — deciding how much they can show, how much they should show. Working with his designer they had to decide how much should be visible inside the jar and how often the audience should see the jar. Johnson says that in Collier’s original script the jar was mostly referred to off stage.
“[Collier has] been very good,” Johnson says. “He has more or less stepped aside from the process and let us, the creative team, take his play and take off in our own direction. He trusts us and allows us to see what we can do with his words.”
Johnson and the rest of the cast and crew have had fun deciding how the jar should be handled.
One of the design features Johnson says they came up with was developing the jar as almost a tell-tale heart in the play — that it is always present for the audience but not always seen. He says they created an ever-present door to the basement in the centre of the stage and the audience always knows what’s down there though most of the characters do not.
“It has been interesting talking with the cast and the designers,” Johnson says, “and coming up with some ideas and design concepts that I think will be really interesting for the audience to see.”