Margaret Sanger, in the NYC Fringe program ad
  • Monica Byrne
  • Margaret Sanger, in the NYC Fringe program ad for WHAT EVERY GIRL SHOULD KNOW

After its award-winning premiere in 2012, WHAT EVERY GIRL SHOULD KNOW, Durham playwright Monica Byrne’s speculative drama based on the history of birth control in the United States, is getting an extended life this summer.

The work will be presented in August at the New York International Fringe Festival, running for five performances Aug. 15—24 at The Robert Moss Theatre in lower Manhattan. A fundraising campaign supporting the production was launched this morning on

Set in a Lower East Side Catholic reformatory in 1914, the provocative 90-minute one-act mixes dark humor and social criticism with magical realism as it follows a group of four indigent teenage girls. Through literary contraband smuggled in by a new arrival, the girls learn about the work of Margaret Sanger, one of the founders of the birth control movement. When the quartet adopts her as their secret saint in rituals in their upstairs dorm room, their imaginations are liberated far beyond their dingy quarters, before their faith manifests itself in increasingly mysterious ways.

The play was commissioned by Durham’s Little Green Pig Theatrical Concern, which premiered the work in April 2012. The production was cited among the year’s best ensembles, direction, original scripts and productions in INDY Week’s List for 2012.

In an online video for the indiegogo campaign, Byrne notes, “One of the things I realized as I was writing this play is that the life these girls envisioned for themselves, the life they fantasized about themselves, is the life that I am leading now, one century later. And it’s because of the efforts of people like Margaret Sanger who believed that women should lead a life of their choosing.”

Noting the increase in legislative attacks against women’s health services in recent years, Byrne writes, “We need to understand the physical realities of these threats. My play is about the world that is possible when young women have sovereignty over their bodies, and the reality they face when they don’t.”

The New York production will be directed by Jaki Bradley, who worked in the Triangle theater scene while a drama student at UNC Chapel Hill. The production’s website is; the indiegogo campaign is at