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VOL 3. NO. 37 Monday, October 1 - Sunday, October 7, 2001
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Monologues Explore The "Unmentionable"
By Avonie BROWN

Eve Engler performing "Vagina Monologues."

"It's scary saying the word. Vagina. At first, it feels like you're crashing through an invisible wall. Vagina. You feel guilty and wrong, like someone's going to strike you down. Then after you say the word the hundredth or thousandth time (it's different for each woman), it hits you that it's your word, your body, your most essential place."

- excerpt from {The Vagina Monologues}

Now I must admit, at first I was a bit uneasy about attending a theatrical piece called {The Vagina Monologues.} I mean what could you possibly say ab out the vagina that wasn't gratuitous and voyeuristic? What could someone say that would be dramatically appealing and would hold my attention for an hour-and-a-half? And for that matter, why would anyone want to do a play about the vagina of all things?

Eve Ensler's powerful one woman show exposes the conspiracy of silence that suppresses women's open exploration of their bodies and contributes to the resulting disdain many feel for their essential selves. The conflicting relationship that women have with their vagina intrigued Ensler, so she set out to understand why. What she found was that the issue is steeped in much humor and sadness.

Ensler explained that she interviewed hundreds of women of all ages, classes, race, education and sexual preferences in preparation for writing the monologues. Some experiences are recounted as told, but Ensler readily admits she did take some dramatic license with others.

While some interview questions like "What do you call your vagina?" "What would it wear?" and "What would it say?" elicited some humorous responses, it opened the emotional floodgates for many of the women. And between the laughter, Ensler had women in the audience twitching from knowing discomfort.

We were saddened by the wife who was forced to endure her husband's abuse (with the endorsement of their therapist) because he was only aroused when her vagina was clean-shaven and thus, seemingly prepubescent. He had no regard for the obvious pain it caused and she suffered in silence in order to please him.

We were heartbroken by the 74-year-old woman who spent a lifetime stifling all her sexual urges because she was humiliated by a 1953 date who cared little about her sexual excitement at their coupling and was more angered that in the process she had soiled his car seat.

We shared the anger of another woman who questioned the overabundance of products that constantly reinforce for women that natural body odors and functions are to be sanitized at all cost.

And we were drawn to tears when the plaintive voice of a Bosnian Muslim woman detailed their powerlessness in the face of war. Here women are completely devalued and objectified to nothingness. The raping of women has become a strategic weapon in the arsenal of war.

But don't think for one moment that Ensler is preoccupied with only the negatives about our relationship with the vagina. She exposes many of our quirky explorations with this particular part of our anatomy with cleverly crafted wit. And she spends several orgasmic moments vocally delineating the different ways in which women respond when the vagina is given the attention and TLC it deserves from an attentive lover. You just might find yourself in one of these monologues and that's what makes the production so captivating.

As one reviewer stated "the subjects are intensely serious but often hilariously presented. Ensler finds a way to make the issues of abuse, rape, homelessness and powerlessness riveting, poignant and passionately intelligent."

Ensler's work has garnered much attention internationally. The world tour also initiated V-Day, a global movement commemorated on Valentine's Day, to stop violence against women and girls by increasing awareness through events and the media and by raising funds to support organizations working to ensure the safety of women and girls everywhere. V-Day and the Vagina Monologues has gotten much celebrity support with Whoopi Goldberg, Glenn Close, Susan Sarandon, Winona Ryder, Rosie Perez, Gloria Steinem, Marisa Tomei and others reading portions at various events nationally.

The Vagina Monologues runs from October 16-28 at the National Theatre. Ticket prices range from $28.75-$68.75. A portion of ticket sales will go directly to the V-Day Fund which will then pass on the contribution to a local charity dedicated to ending violence against women and girls. To date the V-Day Fund has raised over four million dollars for local, national and international groups. To learn more about V-Day visit www.vday.org or call 800-477-7400 for tickets to the National Theatre performance.

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