a thousand vaginas and still, i only speak for myself

Issue Two: Snatch Adams and Tainty McCracken Present It's That Time of the Month
a.k. payne
November 10, 2023
a.k. payne

a.k. payne (she/they) is a playwright, artist-theorist, and theatermaker with roots in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Their plays love on and engage the interdependencies of Black pasts, presents and futures and seek to find/remember language that might move us towards our collective liberation(s). They hold a B.A. in English and African-American Studies from Yale College and an MFA in Playwriting under Tarell Alvin McCraney from fka Yale School of Drama. Their work has been finalist for the L. Arnold Weissberger New Play Award and the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize. She is the current recipient of the Van Lier New Voices Fellowship, National Black Theatre’s I AM SOUL Playwrights Residency, the Kemp Powers Commission Fund for Black Playwrights and Atlantic Theater Company's Judith Champion Launch Commission. Their work has been developed with the National Playwrights Conference, The New Harmony Project, Great Plains Theater Conference, and Manhattan Theater Club's "Groundworks Lab." They are a proud graduate of Pittsburgh Public Schools; grandchild of the Great Migration; descendant of a music teacher and a carpenter, who both march every year with their unions in Pittsburgh’s Labor Day parade; a queer & non-binary abolitionist affected in community by the ‘New Jim Crow;” and of a great lineage of Black women storytellers and living-room archivists; all of which deeply informs, uplifts and amplifies their work as a playwright, community organizer and spacemaker. Next up, their play: Furlough's Paradise will have its World Premiere at the Alliance Theatre in February of 2024.

there is a vagina through which

we enter

reminding me of that first

experience entering the world:

pink carpets and walls

that feel as if they could pulse

there is a melting.

a gradual slipping away of pretense and armor.

i am not easily softened

in the theater

until i am softened

and then i am a puddle

i am swimming and i am free

alive present breath-ful

these are my favorite shows. they are rare.

i am not easily softened in the theater

because i am endlessly afraid

of how my own body will be marked here

or forgotten.

i love shows that leave me disarmed and cracked open

whole and heart, forward.

held. i emerge from that cocoon of pink

to condoms

and menstrual pads

and i remember Becca Blackwell’s

invocation of where

we each feel most alive

most assured of purpose

most aware of those places

between our thighs

as they be free of any constructs

i am crying before i know it.

the melting is intimate

in the ways this play is intimate

demanding me to notice

i spend the next few days

thinking of who named parts

of my own body

and did i consent to this naming?

and what are the names i would choose

what are the collection of sounds i would make

if i lived in a forest where no one was around to hear?

90 minutes in front of and within a thousand

vaginas awakens something

where i can study my own body differently

there are the golden thighs before me

spread wide

with pink public hair

and labia through which

the world of the play spins

and emerges

there is Snatch Adams

themself who embodies

a vagina at various states of being:

in their salmon cardigan ála Mr. Rogers

they are a vagina on their best day

they have never thought about their own desire

they name their dreams

they discover

and discover

and discover

and they are stunning

and honest

and we fall in love

with them

over and over again

i am left on the edge of my seat.

we begin with a clown nose as a clit

Snatch Adams asks a member of the audience to find

for years i have been telling friends

i want to be a clown

and i don’t know how to explain it

except through wonder


in a class on this

we bend our knees and open our mouths

and let our jaws hang low and we stare

at one another

and we laugh from our bellies


the melting is structural, intentional

a peeling away of layer

a purging.

puppets embody HIV and UTIs

audience members who have never had a period

race to put on sanitary belts

and answer trivia questions about

that infamous time of the month

rendered mysterious for time immemorial

this is shed too

we are taught by this melting

to be with one another differently

to recognize our inherent



we have bodies!

that bleed and age

and sweat! these are are bodies.

those of us wit periods

nod along at recognition

we laugh

we are seen.

i am twenty-five and gender binaries leave me feeling frozen.

i live by a quote by Hunter Ashleigh Shackleford:

“What gender is ‘she’?

What gender is ‘nigga’?

How can you misgender me without knowing my gender?

How can I give you a power that only comes with a shared intimacy?

I don’t know y’all niggas. And you don’t know me.”

this vagina does not make me woman

i am always Black

i come from Blackwomen

and i am becoming free.

there are moments where i am acutely aware

of my Black body in this theater

this play is markedly traversing

realms heralded by white flesh

there are moments

where i feel myself clamoring

for representations of my own

this is not lost on the play

in one moment

Snatch Adams reading fan mail


on how they can only represent


and this

is a breath of fresh air

in a world

where performance

and virtue signaling reign

there is a rest found in this

refusal to pretend

that any single play can encapsulate

all there is to know

of lives

lived by all the world’s vaginas

in our final scene with Snatch Adams

we see this character bleeding out

at that time of the month

a purging a release

and a new beginning.

Becca Blackwell emerges.

the comic, writer: honest, raw


with us.

it is a theater magic in which

i believe they are a new person

not a six-foot-tall vagina

(AND still holding the epic-ness of that six-foot-tall vagina)

but the writer of this journey

for which there was

the most profound purpose.

i am left here,

as Becca hugs the golden thighs

and they come alive. i am left holding,

after a moment where i imagined myself free:

the moment you name something, you take away all that it is.

i want to remain nameless, fluid.


this is community.

the longest relationship you have is the one with yourself.

Snatch Adams and Tainty McCracken Present It's That Time of the Month plays at Soho Rep through December 3, 2023.

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