By Tiffany D. Gardner
Four years ago, Erin Maya started work on the music and lyrics for her rock musical The Complete Picture, which tackles the identity crisis that often accompanies genealogical explorations by donor conceived people. The music for the show was publicly performed for the first time at The Green Room 42 in New York City on Jan. 8, with a cast that included Maya (who is donor conceived), Constantine Maroulis, Kaitlin Hopkins, Pierre Jean Gonzalez, Paul Saylor, and Ariana Valdes.
The story focuses on 36-year-old Kira, a donor conceived person who struggles with questions of nature vs. nurture when she becomes pregnant. The voice of Kira’s deceased father accompanies her on the journey to identify the sperm donor while navigating issues faced by many people like her in the absence of industry regulation.
“I wrote the piece to raise awareness about [the donor conceived] community and to encourage transparent conversations within families, so the bigger platform the show gets, the more people it can reach and serve its mission,” Maya said. “I wanted people to feel seen and heard, but also to find empathy for other perspectives.”
So far the show is having its intended impact.
The Jan. 8 performance was met with positive reviews by U.S. Donor Conceived Council (USDCC) volunteers who either attended in person or watched the live stream. Double-donor conceived person and USDCC Marketing Director Rachel Schiff said the musical “twists together a story of family, love, and understanding your identity.” Schiff said they were amazed at how much their own story related to the main character’s and cannot wait to see what comes next for the show.
USDCC Social Media Director Kelly Best, a donor conceived person who traveled to New York from North Carolina to attend in person, says it was “cathartic to see the insecurities, curiosity, guilt, joy, tension, fear, and excitement that have marked my own journey as a donor conceived person play out for the protagonist on stage. I felt seen.”
And USDCC Vice President for Mental Health Initiatives Joni Mantell agreed, saying that as both a therapist and donor conceived person, she believes that “the emotions expressed, and the dialogues the main character had with her parents will be illuminating, tension releasing, and even therapeutic for persons experiencing late discoveries.”
Maya is pleased with the response so far.
“Thankfully a lot of the feedback was that it resonated in [the] ways I had intended, and that means the most to me,” she said. She further hopes that the show will continue to build a bridge between donor conceived people and recipient parents who, she says, have power as consumers “to demand industry regulation and the protection of donor conceived people.”
With the musical debut in hand, Maya’s short term goals now include professionally recording the songs “I am not a Secret” and “Another Mountain” in February.
“So many donor conceived people and parents reached out about those two songs in particular from the concert, so I wanted to record them professionally and release them on all digital platforms for easy access,” Maya explained.
Maya also hopes to do a “29-hour reading” of the full show with union actors and attract the attention of producers. A 29-hour reading permits union actors to commit 29 hours to a full reading of a show with those hours divided between rehearsals and performance. Maya is currently fundraising for this endeavor. In the long term she hopes for a commercial off-Broadway run, eventually landing on Broadway.
For those who missed the in-person or live stream performance on Jan. 8, video footage of single songs is available on Instagram.
Anyone interested in seeing the full performance may send an email to Maya at [email protected] to receive a link for personal use only. She kindly requests a donation in exchange, which may be made to the musical’s Venmo handle, @thecompletepicturemusical. Maya invites anyone interested in supporting the show, or who may have Broadway connections that would be interested, to reach out.
Top and bottom images: Cast members from The Complete Picture perform songs from the rock musical Jan. 8 at The Green Room 42. Middle image: Erin Maya performing music from The Complete Picture. All images provided courtesy of Erin Maya.