Sovereignty Hymns

Sovereignty Hymns

By The Bengsons
A La Jolla Playhouse Commission

Sovereignty Hymns features a series of original songs exploring questions about reproductive liberty. Created by Abigail and Shaun Bengson (Hundred Days), the series is inspired by interviews with people whose lives have been impacted by abortion. In this work, the Bengsons queried, can we have an empathetic conversation about abortion? Can we imagine ourselves into the body-experience of another and learn there, with love and openness? This piece asks us to feel the sanctity of our own choices, and may those choices be honored by those in power and by those we love.

Watch the series: Hymn 1 | Hymn 2 | Hymn 3

HYMN 3 | GOD MY REDEEMER | Nelba’s Story
When Nelba has a run in with pro-life protestors at a terrible time in her own life, her Christian, pro-choice stance is deeply affirmed. Nelba reminds us that everyone is living a hard story, and to hold the complexity of others’ experience with compassion, even when we disagree.

 

HYMN 2 | IT MAKES ME LAUGH | Adina’s Story
A drunken Thanksgiving revelation leads Adina to learn something new about her family.

 

For you, from the Creators, Abigail and Shaun Bengson:

“There is so much secrecy and shame around abortion, but it has been a part of the human experience for generations. We are all of us part of a legacy of abortion.

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Our ancestors had abortions. Adina wouldn’t be here if her mother hadn’t made the choice she did. May all of us come out of the confusion of shame and reconnect with the ordinary heroism at the center of each of our stories, at every age.

For this song we tried to remember what it felt like to be a teenager, the kind of laughing we did then. We decided to sing from there.”

For you, from Adina:

“I am so proud of my mama. Her excruciating choice was a choice for her life, for my life, and for my sister’s life. And in that way, pro-choice IS pro-life.”

HYMN 1 | FOR LOVE | Greta’s Story
This first song is Greta’s story. When she got a heart breaking diagnosis of trisomy 18 at 18 weeks pregnant, she made a choice for love.

 

For you, from the Creators, Abigail and Shaun Bengson:

“Welcome to Sovereignty Hymns, a series of music video documentaries we have been creating over the past year from personal stories around abortion. We’ve been writing these songs, these hymns, to hold one …

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…another’s bodies sacred, to honor the sanctity of everyone’s right to birth or not to birth. We hope that with these songs we will make space to have courageous conversations about the complexities and challenges of this issue, while above all honoring everyone’s right to live freely in their own sovereign body.

We believe that every choice made around reproduction is a choice towards life – towards the life of the pregnant person, of the unborn child, and of the children already living. Look around and you will find people who are alive today because a past abortion changed the course of their parents’ life. Look around and you will find people who are able to live the lives they were meant to because of their ability to choose.

By celebrating the choices made by these beloved individuals we hope to create a space to hold and honor the sanctity of sovereignty over our own bodies. We hope you will listen and feel held in empathy and kindness. We hope that you may be free in your life, and sing of yourself your own hymn. A sovereignty hymn.”

For you, from Greta:

“I believe in sharing our stories. There are so many reasons a person may choose abortion, and (importantly) no one ever has to justify their choice. But our stories are not justifications — they are truth telling. They are lived human experience. Abortion can be hard and sad, and it can be easy, it can be a relief; abortion is not always a difficult or conflicted choice. For me, it was the only choice: there was no question. But for me, it was also deeply sad; a true loss that I grieve. My story is my own; is one of millions; is necessary.”

The BengsonsThe Bengsons
Abigail and Shaun Bengson are a married composing and performing duo based in NYC and VT who have performed across the country and around the world. Their video for The Keep Going Song has been viewed over 4 million times. Three of their singles have been featured on “So You Think You Can Dance” (FOX). Their theater work includes The Keep Going Song (Actor’s Theatre of Louisville), My Joy is Heavy (Arena Stage), Hundred Days (La Jolla Playhouse, New York Theatre Workshop, US Tour), The Lucky Ones (Ars Nova), Where the Mountain Meets the Sea (ATL’s Humana Festival; upcoming: Fall 2022 at Manhattan Theatre Club), Anything That Gives Off Light (Edinburgh Theatre Festival), You’ll Still Call Me By Name (New York Live Arts, Jacob’s Pillow), and Iphigenia in Aulis (Classic Stage Company). More upcoming/in development: Ohio (piece by piece productions). They have received the Jonathan Larson and Richard Rodgers Awards and nominations for the Drama Desk, Drama League, and Lucille Lortel Awards.

Full Credits

HYMN 1 | FOR LOVE | Greta’s Story
Presented by La Jolla Playhouse
Produced by Erica Rotstein and Amy Ashton
Sung and Lived by Greta Wilson
Written, performed, and audio engineered by The Bengsons
Additional audio engineering by Jay Pellicci
Video shot by The Bengsons and Jacob Cabral
Special thanks to Dan Moses and Ian Kagey

HYMN 2 | IT MAKES ME LAUGH | Adina’s Story
Presented by La Jolla Playhouse
Produced by Erica Rotstein and Amy Ashton
Told and sung by Adina Verson
Written, performed, engineered and edited by The Bengsons
Additional audio engineering by Ian Kagey
Video shot by The Bengsons, Erica Rotstein and Adina Verson
Special thanks to Sarah Lunnie
and to Adina’s mother for sharing her story

HYMN 3 | GOD MY REDEEMER | Nelba’s Story
Presented by La Jolla Playhouse
Produced by Erica Rotstein
Told and sung by Nelba Márquez-Greene
Written, performed, engineered and edited by The Bengsons
Additional audio engineering by Ian Kagey
Video shot by The Bengsons and Erica Rotstein

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