Geva Theatre Center is honored to produce the world premiere production of Jamie Pachino‘s play Other Than Honorable, directed by Kimberly Senior. We invited Iskra Bonanno, associate at Harter, Secrest and Emery LLP to attend a rehearsal and the very first performance of the play on our stage. Here are some of her thoughts about the relevance of this story in her own life and work.
Other than Honorable is a riveting play about a lawyer, Grace Rattigan, who resigned her Army officer post under sealed terms and finds herself taking on a military sexual assault case. The case forces her to confront her past and face seemingly insurmountable opposition. While a consistent theme throughout the play is exposing the latent sexual assault culture in the United States military, it is also about the empowerment of women. Despite her own personal struggles and demons, Grace finds the strength to fight for a greater cause. Through her diligent representation of her clients, Grace not only supports her clients’ cause, but also uplifts and empowers herself.
As an attorney, the play reminded me of the vast responsibility an attorney has in representing clients zealously, diligently and competently. This responsibility is codified in the New York State Rules of Professional Conduct for attorneys (and echoes the same requirement in other states). Clients depend on their attorneys with matters that are deeply important to them. Sometimes it’s the state of their business, their criminal conviction, or as shown in the play, civil suit for sexual assault. Attorneys must often put aside their own personal problems or needs to effectively advocate for their clients. While often a sacrifice, doing so can also be the most rewarding aspect of the job. In the play, Grace’s husband was deployed in a dangerous unknown location and she had skeletons in her own closet when the sexual assault case came before her. Where she would previously shy away from a case that could be too difficult or could force her to face her own demons, this time she did not. This time, she stood up for her client and victims of sexual assault everywhere. In turn, Grace also empowered herself.
Women attorneys often face the unique challenge of balancing the responsibilities to their clients. As a pregnant mother and attorney at one of the largest firms in Rochester, diligently representing my clients’ needs can sometimes come at a sacrifice. While my challenges are not as severe as those Grace faced, working through the discomforts of pregnancy, the sleeplessness of comforting a newborn and pumping breastmilk to nourish my children are challenges uniquely faced by many working moms. And yet, zealously representing my clients’ needs has been a source of empowerment for me. It is empowering to know that I have the capacity to both nourish my family and my own legal career. It is also empowering to show my children what can be accomplished with hard work and commitment.
Grace’s struggle and my own sacrifices underscore that often our greatest struggles can be the source of our most significant empowerment.