Unpacking The Rep’s “The Call”

We didn't ask to solve the world's problems - we asked to adopt a baby

When the subject of adoption comes up, especially in a community-wide context, we get excited and pay close attention. We are The CALL, and our objective is to mobilize the Church in Arkansas to love foster children with the extravagant love of Christ.

That’s why we’re excited the Arkansas Repertory Theatre (The Rep) is presenting Tanya Barfield’s thought-provoking play “The Call” through February 11, 2018. Since our organization shares the same name as Barfield’s play and the production centers on the topic of adoption, we thought it would be helpful to our partners, friends, and families to know our thoughts on the production to help shape the conversations that may come your way about the play. We hope to accomplish that without providing too many spoilers.

The primary characters of the play, a Caucasian couple in their mid-30’s (Annie and Peter), have decided to adopt a baby from Africa. The actors in this production are very talented and believable, and the script does a tremendous job of capturing the anxiety and doubt that comes with adoption. Their closest friends are a well-traveled, African-American, lesbian couple who’ve just married. Their exchanges provide a backdrop of middle-class, suburban sensibilities and bring forward some of the preconceived notions about multi-ethnic and cross-cultural life in modern-day America. There is also an exploration of the things that make a family a family.

The play demonstrates the influence of friends and family on the decision to move into adoption. It also realistically portrays the indecision and difficulty that come when things do not go as planned. Our experience is that every foster and adoption situation is unique. In our work, we help families understand the process and, in essence, submit it to God and pray to see His work. The play also brings front and center the trappings of our consumeristic culture that assumes it’s possible to select a child to adopt the same way we would pick out a home or a car. Sometimes, hopes and dreams become a set of demands and result in unrealistic expectations.

The play also touches on an aspect of adoption some call the “Hero Complex.” It’s when an affluent couple hastily decides to adopt because of guilt resulting from seeing a child’s helpless state. These feelings, combined with a lack of understanding of the sacrifice associated with adoption, often summon problems which can lead to disruption. At The CALL, we help couples navigate this phase and assist them with the tools they need to process their motivations. The characters in the play seemed to prioritize their needs over the needs of the child. Their needs were specific and numerous. The child just needed a bedroom.

An important distinction could be made by simply explaining the meaning behind the play’s name “The Call” and our organization’s name “The CALL.”

The play seems to gather its name from the suspense and tension that comes as the couple waits for the phone to ring with the news – any news – about the child with whom they may be matched. That call from a social worker or agency is certainly a poignant moment in the life of every adoptive parent.

The name of the organization “The CALL” is just as specific but in a different way. To be clear, “The CALL” is named to point to God’s call on the lives of Christians to minister to the modern day orphans in foster care in our community. Through no fault of their own, these children have suffered the trauma of abuse or neglect and have been removed from everything they perceived stable in their life. We believe every Christian is called to be a steward who creates or supports a safe, nurturing environment where children can experience the extravagant love of Christ. That is “the call.”

Finally, we should say that while the play mentions God and faith briefly, it does not offer a biblical worldview of adoption. There were a few instances of profanity expressed in moments of frustration. The emotions expressed by the cast are raw and authentic. The Rep gives “The Call” a PG-13 rating. However, we would not recommend this production for children under the age of 18.

Overall, we found “The Call” to be a genuine and compelling way to bring the subject of cross-cultural adoption to our community.

Lauri Currier, Executive Director, The CALL

Mike Clowers, Development Coordinator, The CALL in Pulaski County

More from the Pulaski County blog