Here are the grim statistics: Somewhere in America a woman is battered, usually by her intimate partner, every 15 seconds; a rape is committed every 21 hours on each college campus in the United States; more than 130 million girls and women worldwide have been subjected to female genital mutilation, and a further two million girls are at risk. Those facts may not sound like the genesis of a phenomenally successful performance piece titled The Vagina Monologues, but then, of course, some of the best things come from the most unlikely places.
Eve Ensler's one-woman play has been hailed as funny, poignant, and courageous. The show was originally produced in 1997 by HOME for Contemporary Theater and Art at the performance space HERE in New York; that production won an Obie Award. It has since toured the United States and played internationally in Jerusalem, Berlin, Athens, and Zagreb. Ensler's book, also entitled The Vagina Monologues, is a bestseller.
Based on interviews with a diverse group of hundreds of women— from a Long Island antiques dealer to a Bosnian refugee— The Vagina Monologues brazenly explores questions that are seldom asked: Do women like their vaginas? What do women call their vaginas? What can you tell about a woman by the way she moans when she is aroused?
Ensler performs the play as a solo act, but it has also been produced as an ensemble piece featuring some of the country's leading actresses, for benefits and fund-raisers. Spectrum Theater, the UVA troupe currently working on the show, follows that tradition, bringing in a number of local actresses to play the various characters in the script.
"I decided to talk to women about their vaginas, to do vagina interviews, which became vagina monologues," writes Ensler, "and all kinds of audience members with vaginas and without have come to hear what the women had to say." Don't miss your chance to hear the answer to a question or two you may have been wishing you knew how to ask. Or your chance to support the local organization dedicated to assisting battered women; all proceeds benefit Charlottesville's Shelter for Help in Emergency. —T.E.
The Vagina Monologues plays at UVA’s Old Cabell Hall Friday, February 15, at 8pm and Sunday, February 17, at 2pm and 8pm. Tickets, $4, may be purchased on The Lawn or reserved by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org. A $2 refund will be available to ticket holders who bring donations of food and clothing to the performances. 923-4093.