On Saturday night I drove downtown to the Fountain Square neighborhood to see a staged reading of Eve Ensler’s play, “The Vagina Monologues.” The venue was the Wheeler Arts Community building. The reading was organized by Kelly Thomas to benefit The Julian Center.
This two-night, sold-out benefit was part of V-Day, which is “a global movement to end violence against women and girls that raises funds and awareness through benefit productions of Playwright/Founder Eve Ensler’s award winning play…” (from the program notes.)
It felt good to be helping these causes, of course, but I also just loved the show. The collection of monologues that Ensler first performed in New York City in 1996 has been tweaked and expanded over the years. The version I saw on Saturday night was thought-provoking. It also inspired joy.
The set was very simple: The wall behind a raised platform was draped with black, gauzy curtains, except for one mottled red swath down the center. On the platform were several chairs, barstools, and large wooden cubes. The program does not say who designed the set, nor who designed the lights, but they were skillfully placed and run.
Several women filed onto the stage and found seats. Each woman wore black with a touch or two of red: red tights, or a red hat, or a red necklace, or…
I learned later that only a few of the women were professional actors. Most just simply wanted to be part of this project. All of them read their pieces with heartfelt emotion and grace.
I enjoyed and/or was moved by all of the pieces, but I want to mention three in particular:
Adrienne Reiswerg played an elegant English woman telling about her discovery of her own vagina and clitoris while lying on a shiny blue mat at “The Vagina Workshop.” Her accent and demeanor reminded me of rose gardens and high tea. Her delight in her discoveries was equally charming.
I was moved to tears by the tandem monologue “My Vagina Was a Village.” Stacy Smith played a woman who was still innocently at home in her body and in her Kosovo community. Joyce Pendleton played a woman whose home had been invaded, her body attacked and abused by the raiders. When Smith’s village/body was raped, too, and their stories joined, it was almost unbearable to listen and watch.
A little later, the whole troupe participated in the hilarious “The Woman Who Loved to Make Vaginas Happy.” Teresa Chen was the main character. She told of discovering how much she liked to make women moan with pleasure. Then she listed the many kinds of moans that women make, and as she did, each moan was voiced by the various other actors. Oh, my goodness, that was a funny monologue!
But at the end of it, Teresa Reynolds demonstrated a deluxe, triple-orgasm moan that made Meg Ryan’s fake orgasm in “When Harry Met Sally” look like a hiccup. I laughed and laughed and laughed so hard that when that monologue was finally over, I felt as released as if I had experienced the orgasms along with Reynolds’ character.
The show was not about bashing men, although I suppose this show might make some men uncomfortable. It is, after all, empowering to women, and sometimes people assume that empowering women automatically means disempowering men. It doesn’t.
In the lobby there were several beautiful pieces of art – photographs, paintings, sculptures, etc. People could bid on them in a silent auction that was part of the benefit event. My theatre habit has sucked dry my own arts budget for the moment, so I couldn’t bid on anything, but this exhibit reminded me that I want to make sure that I set aside enough money to buy one piece of hang-on-the-wall art per year, too.
This review will probably bring out a deluge of spam comments for me to eliminate, but I don’t care: “The Vagina Monologues” was a wonderful experience.
This show is over in Indy, at least for now, but people from all over will gather in the New Orleans Arena on April 12, 2008 to celebrate V’Day’s Tenth Annivesary. “V to the Tenth” will celebrate ten years of ending violence against women and girls and will launch the next ten to heal and empower women world-wide. For more information about this event, please visit the V-Day website: http://www.vday.org
Hope Baugh – www.IndyTheatreHabit.com