Prima Facie ’s Impact: A Conversation with Producer James Bierman

When producer James Bierman first read Suzie Miller’s Prima Facie , he immediately wanted to bring it to the stage but hesi- tated over the fact that a man would be at its helm. The play- wright assured him a man was the best choice, explaining, “No, if a group of women put this play on, we’ll just be written off as hysterical women shouting loudly about something; if I get you to produce and I get a guy to direct it, I am implicating men in a conversation in this piece right from the start.” According to Bierman, being involved with Prima Facie has changed his life. “I’ve talked to Jodie [Comer] about being part of something that is so much bigger than the sum of what we do,” he says. “It has become this thing .” Bringing it to Broadway has made it even larger. “Even in liberal New York…the fact that abortion has become a conversation again in one of the most progressive countries on the earth, things that you just felt were dealt with, just shows how important these things are.” As the show began to get underway in London, Comer asked police and DSI Clair Kelland, “If I went to a police station for real, what would happen?” She invited them to meet her at the station, where Comer was to press a buzzer and go through the experience. Bierman remembers it as being one of the most compelling and terrifying days in the show’s process. “Jodie was told to go to the desk and say, ‘I’ve been attacked.’ We walked through the whole experience of it. You realize straight away in that scenario that you’re already up against who you’re going to meet that day, what their day has been, if they have been on duty for hours…Is there a specially trained officer in that branch at that particular time? If there isn’t, you won’t get that sense of care,” recalls Bierman. “The sense of responsibility I have as a man producing this play is to not miss any opportunity I get on this journey to let this play make some change. It’s a re- ally articulate way of making people think about it, and it’s a real problem.” Schools Consent Project Bierman resourced the Schools Consent Project, a charity dedi- cated to educating and empowering young people to understand and engage with the issues surrounding consent and sexual as- sault. In London, barristers lead workshops in secondary schools and youth groups in which they discuss the legal defini- tions of consent and assault. The group is launching branches in the U.S. to coincide with Facie ’s opening on Broadway and Peter Avery, the Director of Theater for the New York City Depart- ment of Education, is helping Bierman and Schools Consent Project plug into various existing organizations, schools, and networks. Accessibility “We’re looking at a lot of different ways we can connect with diverse audiences in our ten weeks, and accessibility is one,” says Bierman. “One amazing donor has underwritten 500 free

tickets, so we’re going to do five nights where we’ll have 100 young people from different groups across New York come to see the show for free. We’ll have workshops from the Schools Consent Project either beforehand or afterward.” The produc- tion is launching a $10 lottery. Ten tickets at $10 for each show will be spread throughout the house. “We have three nights where we’re going to do Q&As after the show, and I’m working to see if we can get interesting peo- ple on the panels,” says Bierman, who is in conversation with people like V (Eve Ensler) and Ashley Judd. “I’m hopeful that by the end of the run, we’ll be able to galvanize and pull some activity together that will help this conversation poke through and disseminate in a lot of different directions.” Prima Faces Project “One of the most overwhelming things was getting loads of tes- timonies from people,” recalls Bierman. “I read them all because I felt that if someone could be brave enough to write, I should at least be brave enough to read it and respond. It was over- whelming to read what people go through. It broke my heart to read this repeatedly. The positive thing for me that came out of it was feeling like the show got embraced by a community of


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