When you think of the last frontier, you may not think of the vagina.
Writer Eve Ensler does.
In her play, “The Vagina Monologues,” Ensler explores the forbidden mysteries of female genitalia with humor, poignancy and unabashed honesty.
In this stunning celebration of female sexuality, Ensler has created a series of monologues based on the interviews of
200 women who told her their memories and experiences of sex.
After opening in a small, basement theater in New York City in 1996, the play went on to become an Obie award winner and an international phenomenon.
A television version of the play featuring Ensler was produced by the cable TV channel HBO.
In 1998, Ensler launched “V-Day,” a global nonprofit that has raised more than $60 million for women’s anti-violence groups.
“As I traveled with the piece to city after city, country after country, hundreds of women waited after the show to talk to me about their lives,” Ensler said.
“Night after night I heard the same stories — women being raped as teenagers, in college, as little girls, as elderly women. Women who had finally escaped being beaten to death by their husbands; women who were terrified to leave; women who were taken sexually, before they were even conscious of sex, by their stepfathers, brothers, cousins, uncles, mothers and fathers. Slowly it dawned on me that nothing was more important than stopping violence toward women.”
Celebrated as the bible for a new generation of women, “The Vagina Monologues” is performed in honor of V-Day at hundreds of venues during the months of February and March to coincide with Valentine’s Day.
Here on South Whidbey, the play is performed annually to benefit local programs for girls and women.
This year, 18 women will perform the “The Vagina Monologues” on the Langley Middle School auditorium stage at 7 p.m. Thursday, March 5, Friday, March 6 and Saturday, March 7.
Proceeds from ticket sales will benefit Citizens Against Domestic & Sexual Abuse (CADA), Soroptimist Island Girls Day Camp and VDay.org.
Traditionally, the monologues are read by community members who are given guidelines for producing the show, one being to limit rehearsal time in order to retain the freshness and immediacy of each piece.
Co-directors Dana Linn and Anastasia Brencick talked a bit about how to approach a play that has been fraught with much taboo and controversy.
“It is a simple play that was started by asking women one main question: ‘If your vagina could talk, what would it say?’” Brencick said.
“From this simple question, many stories have unfolded that allow us to share in the experiences of women from around the world. These stories connect us and remind us that we share a common bond, through pain and birth, trauma and pleasure.”
Local resident Kate Scott is a member of the cast who will read “Because He Liked to Look At It.”
Scott said reading the piece is a powerful experience for her because she can see parts of her past written between its lines.
The monologue is about a woman who, despite her distaste for her “patriarchal society,” finds a man who appreciates the woman she is.
“In the mid-1970s I was an easily influenced teenager with a militant-feminist stepmother who convinced me that men were inclined to dominate women,” Scott said.
“For at least 30 years, I experienced an internal struggle, as I vacillated between a raw, abrasive style of feminism and a gentler, kinder feminism that honors all aspects of femininity and masculinity. My monologue helps me come full circle and clarify this philosophical struggle I have had with the many roles of males and females,” she said.
This connection to the material is exactly the kind of thing director Linn was looking for when the women came together as a group.
“We’ve tried to foster community within the cast, as well as connection to character by conversation and support,” Linn said.
“We have encouraged women to delve into their character, to develop a backstory about who that woman was before we hear her saying these words, telling her story,” she added.
Monologues with titles such as “My Angry Vagina,” “The Woman Who Liked To Make Vaginas Happy,” and “Not so Happy Fact,” sound difficult for even actors to tackle. And for women who may not be used to performing and have to reveal themselves with such volatile words and actions is even more of a challenge.
“This play is uncomfortable,” Brencick said.
“How could it not be? But these opportunities to be uncomfortable allow us to question ourselves and the world around us and then make positive changes. I suppose that’s why there can be such political energy behind these kinds of performances,” she said.
Linn, like Brencick, is not afraid of the controversy surrounding “The Vagina Monologues” but embraces it for the power it unleashes.
“If we can add one drop of awareness to the forefront of our community’s minds about the violence women are enduring around the world and on our island — yes, in our own back yard — that is the first step to change.”
In addition to the monologues, a six-minute video “Until the Violence Stops” will show the entire V-Day process and how it came into being.
The cast includes Joy Williams, Judy Kaplan, Martha Murphy, Kathleen Schofield, Kate Scott, Casey Lanigan, Darlene Milne, Susan Gilles, Dana Consuelo Enslow, Marta Mullholland, Lindsey Brockett, Signe Cvar, Barbara Dunn, Elisa Stone, Deana Duncan, Deloris Ament, Cynthia Trowbridge and Carolyn Tamler.
The show is produced by Tamler with costumes by Marlene Nakamura.
Musical interludes will be performed by Barbara Dunn, Barb Nichols and Bridget Fischer. Five students from South Whidbey High School, Megan Besst, Sommer Harris, Emily Dunn-Wilder, Athena Michaelides and Dinah Hassrick, will sing and stage a performance art piece for each of the three performances.
This show contains explicit themes and language.
Tickets are $20 and are available at Miriam’s Espresso & Café in Coupeville; Rob Schouten Gallery at Greenbank Farm; Island Girl Nails in Clinton; in Langley at Moonraker Bookstore, Spa Essencia, or the Whidbey Island Center for the Arts box office; in Freeland at 1504 Coffee Bar or Island Tea and at the door.