Julia Meinwald and
“Pregnancy Pact” is the first professionally produced musical by composer Julia Meinwald and bookwriter-lyricist Gordon Leary. It’s inspired by the headline-grabbing 2008 story of a group of teenage girls at Gloucester High School who made an agreement to get pregnant and raise their children together. The tale of the pact, which their principal outlined to Time magazine, was swiftly debunked — but for artists, the appeal of the narrative has lingered. “Pregnancy Pact” runs Thursday through Sept. 8 at the Weston Playhouse in Weston, Vt. Information is at 802-824-5288 and www.westonplayhouse.org.
‘We tried to follow girls who felt real and create emotional journeys that felt real. We weren’t trying to capitalize on a salacious headline.’ Julia Meinwald
Q. The pregnancy pact story has been adapted into a Lifetime movie, an off-Broadway show [by Medford playwright Kirsten Greenidge] called “Milk Like Sugar,” and now a musical. What about this story compels so many people to dramatize it?
Meinwald: The thing that is most interesting to us about the story is the psychology of the girls who made the pact. Whether or not it actually happened, people seem to believe it could happen, so we wondered what could have been going through a girl’s head.
Leary: What lends it to be a musical [is that], within that psychology, there are a lot of high emotions. They have a need for love and family that they don’t get from their parents. That’s what makes it sing.
Q. What do you think your adaptation brings to the table?
Leary: Our story is original. It’s inspired by the idea of the pregnancy pact, but it doesn’t follow exactly the story that came out of Gloucester. And it really only follows the girls. There are no adult characters. You don’t meet the other people in their lives.
Q. Why did you decide not to include any other characters?
Leary: [The girls] really exist in this insular world. That’s where they find their joy and their love. It gives you the chance to get to know the girls without the judgments of people outside of the group. Our aim in writing this show was not to have a specific moral, and not to judge them.
Q. Do you have any reservations about staging a story grown out of a claim that turned out to be untrue?
Leary: I don’t think we have any reservations. I think the fact that it didn’t happen was freeing to us. It let us explore anything that we wanted to explore. It was a change for us in writing approach. We discovered the story and discovered the characters as we went, and didn’t feel like there was a mold in which we had to fit.
Meinwald: While we didn’t follow the events exactly, we tried to follow girls who felt real and create emotional journeys that felt real. We weren’t trying to capitalize on a salacious headline.
Leary: The show is much more about what it’s like to grow up in America today.
Q: Gloucester isn’t so far away from Weston. Did you do any investigating of the story?
Meinwald: The investigating was much more to do with the specifics of our show. Gordon works with teens and campers, and we spoke to pregnant women to research the feeling of what that’s like. We almost didn’t want to muddy the waters with the specifics of the [Gloucester] story.
Q. Did you have to change anything when you found out that groups of high school students would be coming to the show as an educational experience?
Leary: We actually haven’t adjusted anything, and we’re really impressed that schools are using it. There is a certain amount of strong language, and obviously the girls are in sexual situations. I think it’s really brave and striking that there are schools in the area that see the value in the discussion, and want to take the show for what it’s worth.