Elise Miller (left) and Susanne Tefts practice lines for “The Vagina Monologues.” Two performances Sunday in Langley benefit the Coalition Against Domestic Violence. Photo by Patricia Guthrie/Whidbey News-Times

Elise Miller (left) and Susanne Tefts practice lines for “The Vagina Monologues.” Two performances Sunday in Langley benefit the Coalition Against Domestic Violence. Photo by Patricia Guthrie/Whidbey News-Times

‘Vagina Monologues’ tapestry of women’s voices on stage Feb. 25

Whidbey joins 20th anniversary global events

The quilt consists of 16 pieces, stitched together to form a statement in purple, lavender, burgundy and rose-colored satin. In the middle of each square is an object of anatomy, power and politics.

A vagina.

Sixteen of them are formed by beads, lace, yarn and layered fabric of all colors and dimensions.

“It’s my senior art project when I was at the University of Colorado,” said Diane Leganza. “I was 50 years old. I’m not sure my professor knew what it was.

“I’m not sure my mother ever said the word ‘vagina’ her whole life.”

Heads nod all around with an echo of “mine neither” among five women gathered to speak of nothing but vaginas.

All were preparing for Sunday’s Langley performance of Eve Ensler’s “The Vagina Monologues” at Whidbey Island Center for the Arts.

Director Ann M. Johnson plans to use the quilt as a backdrop on stage. It’s appropriate, she said, because the play connects voices and experiences of many women.

Written before a computer key’s click could trigger social upheaval, “Vagina Monologues” is the predecessor of #metoo and #timesup.

All these movements, Johnson said, offer “people with female experience to both hear and tell their own story so that woven tapestry grows stronger every time someone speaks up, speaks out and shares the truth.”

“Vagina Monologues” transformed over the years from a celebration of female anatomy and identity to V-Day, described as a “response, vision, demand, spirit and catalyst” focused on ending violence against women around the world.

Proceeds from Sunday’s two performances benefit the nonprofit Coalition Against Domestic Violence, based in Oak Harbor.

Friday, Susanne Tefts and Elise Miller practiced reading their section entitled “The Little Coochie Snorcher that Could.” It traces the sexual awakening of a young girl who realizes in adolescence that “the forbidden zone” her mama warned about didn’t have to be “a place of pain, nastiness, invasion and blood.”

Other readings have names such as “Not so Happy Fact,” “My Angry Vagina” and “My Vagina was my Village.”

The play is based on the award-winning one-woman show of playwright and activist Eve Ensler, who interviewed 200 women about their views on sex, relationships and violence against women.

Each of the individual monologues deals with a different subject, ranging from masturbation, birth, sex, body image and rape. It’s heartfelt, sometimes harrowing and other times humorous.

Ensler releases rights to the play every February so community groups can perform it as a fundraiser. It’s been seen in 140 countries, translated into 48 languages and produced numerous times on Whidbey Island.

This year’s production team includes Elisa Stone, Cynthia Trowbridge and Beverley Rose. Barbara Dunn plays acoustic guitar.

Ages range from 20-year-old Megan LeMay of Oak Harbor to 80-year-old Beverly Rose.

Rose, who lives in Freeland, could be called a Monologue Matriarch.

“I have produced and/or directed ‘Vagina Monologues’ in community productions nine times,” said Rose. “Four times in Ojai (Calif.) and this is my fifth here.

“I love watching the rehearsals. I see transformations take place, both in the performers and the performance.”

Rose sparked this year’s rendition “and word got out organically, South Whidbey style,” said Johnson, executive director of Whidbey Children’s Theatre.

Johnson said she volunteered to direct because she wanted to be a part of the 20th anniversary of the show.

Loretta Seybert went to the show’s first cast meeting as a “fact-finding mission.” Then she read the script and wanted in.

Seybert, 63, said she grew up in the era when “women were supposed to be housewives and mothers. I was lovingly discouraged from pursuing a career and higher education.”

She did anyway.

“I endured plenty of inappropriate work place exchanges, discriminatory wages and demeaning cat calls over the years,” she recalled.

Participating in “Vagina Monologues” makes Seybert feel connected and hopeful.

“I feel that by doing this we correct the mistake of silence and complicity in the injustices,” she said.

“The Vagina Monologues” contains lessons for all, particularly men.

Take it from the matriarch.

“Since they don’t have the female experience, ‘The Vagina Monologues’ is the closest they will ever be to feeling and understanding what (women) both endure and take delight in,” said Rose.

“It is a powerful, political message that I am proud of and inspired to offer.

“The stories are real.”

• “The Vagina Monologues” Sunday, Feb. 25, matinee performance is sold out. Tickets, $20, are still available for the Sunday 7 p.m. benefit performance at Whidbey Island Center for the Arts Zech Hall, Langley. Fo information: www.wicaonline.org

Looking on as Elise Miller reads from note cards are Diane Leganza (left) director Ann M. Johnson (center) and Susanne Tefts. Photo by Patricia Guthrie/Whidbey News-Times

Looking on as Elise Miller reads from note cards are Diane Leganza (left) director Ann M. Johnson (center) and Susanne Tefts. Photo by Patricia Guthrie/Whidbey News-Times

One of 16 quilt panels showing Diane Leganza’s artistic vision of female anatomy.

One of 16 quilt panels showing Diane Leganza’s artistic vision of female anatomy.

One of 16 quilt panels showing Diane Leganza’s artistic vision of female anatomy.

One of 16 quilt panels showing Diane Leganza’s artistic vision of vaginas.
                                One of 16 quilt panels showing Diane Leganza’s artistic vision of vaginas.

One of 16 quilt panels showing Diane Leganza’s artistic vision of vaginas. One of 16 quilt panels showing Diane Leganza’s artistic vision of vaginas.

A vagina quilt made by Diane Leganza of Greenbank for a senior art project when she went back to college at age 50. Leganza, now 68, will be part of the cast of “Vagina Monologues” and so will her quilt.

A vagina quilt made by Diane Leganza of Greenbank for a senior art project when she went back to college at age 50. Leganza, now 68, will be part of the cast of “Vagina Monologues” and so will her quilt.

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