The concept seemed to lack mass appeal – women from eight to 80 talking about their, um, private bits – but somewhere along the way, The Vagina Monologues became a runaway hit.
From its New York beginnings, Eve Ensler’s show has travelled the globe and featured hundreds of celebrity performers among the many more who’ve told their stories. The latest production is now playing at Listowel’s Theatre Three-Eleven.
Culled from the experiences of more than 200 women, The Vagina Monologues features a trio of women telling the stories from the perspective of a wide range of women. At first concerned the topic might prove too risqué for the theatre’s audience, director Stefanie Webster was eventually convinced the time was ripe for such an important topic.
“I first read The Vagina Monologues about five years ago. I had heard about it and about its growing importance over the years. However, when I read it, I thought that it may be the wrong choice for the local audience: too intimate, with some crude and potentially offensive language,” she said.
However, with the opening last fall of North Perth Violence Against Women Resource Centre’s Optimism Place, she revisited the script and decided The Vagina Monologues would make an ideal production to raise awareness – and some funds – about the centre’s raison d’être.
“Anyone viewing the production will be left with profound insight and a new respect for women and their bodies. The piece inspires great laughter one minute and will induce tears the next, but what is perhaps most astounding is the sense of connection it will inspire in its audiences.”
The production is not for everyone, however, Webster warned. The stories are frank and explicit, as is the language – some people may not be comfortable.
It’s the candidness that has made The Vagina Monologues a hit since first hitting the stage in 1996.
The story, Ensler has said, grew from “growing up in a violent society – women’s empowerment is deeply connected to their sexuality.”
Tied deeply to The Vagina Monologues is V-Day, a non-profit venture that has raised more than US$50 million for anti-violence groups. Declaring Valentine’s Day as V-Day, the goal is to reduce violence against women.
With a run that includes Valentine’s Day, the Theatre Three-Eleven production’s timing is not coincidental. Some of the proceeds from the presentation will go to the North Perth Violence Against Women Resource Centre, and patrons are encouraged to contribute to the organization, which will have a display area at the theatre, she explained. Optimism Place is Perth County’s only crisis shelter for abused women, with or without children.
Local women, from 17 to 65 years of age, will be presenting scenes from The Vagina Monologues.
“The cast is an enthusiastic group of local gals who’ve been up on our stage before and who were more than eager to be a part of this particular production,” said Webster.
The Vagina Monologues run until Feb. 21, Thursday through Saturday evenings at 8 p.m. Tickets are $15, available by phoning 519-291-2033 or 1-877-455-0552 or by emailing email@example.com.