On Stage

The Vagina Monologues

Sisters are doing it for themselves

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

What’s the worst word you can think of?

If it starts with a “c” and rhymes with “blunt,” you’re not alone in thinking the four-letter word can be distasteful and derogatory towards women.

I, too, was once wary of this particular linguistic unit. But after a month of uttering it more than a few times a day in an attempt to memorize my piece for upcoming performances of The Vagina Monologues, I’ve changed my mind.

In fact, my way of thinking about most phrases having to do with the intimate specifics of the female anatomy has changed during the course of rehearsals for Eve Ensler’s groundbreaking play—which was first performed in 1996 and has since morphed into a global nonprofit that has raised more than $75 million for women’s anti-violence groups.

I first realized I’d experienced an about-face when it comes to the C-word (and the V-word, among others) on a recent weekday night, when a cluster of women were gathered together in a small living room in Fairhaven for the second group read-through of the monologues.

As I looked around at the rest of the cast—who were sitting closely together on chairs and loveseats, or on the floor—I was struck by how different we all were, yet how our willingness to come together to help present The Vagina Monologues made us more alike than dissimilar.

Our youngest cast member is 20, and our oldest is 72. We spend our days doing different things—from writing for alternative newsweeklies to helping manage hotels and banks, running nonprofits, caregiving for the disabled, teaching improv, giving historical walking tours, working at volunteer centers, running eateries, enjoying retirement, and helping people die with dignity—but have at least one thing in common: On May 5 and May 8, we’ll all be onstage at the Silver Reef Casino attempting to break barriers by sharing the universal experiences of a variety of women.

The shows, which will raise funds for YWCA Bellingham (which has recently merged with the WomenCare Shelter) and Ensler’s “One Billion Rising” campaign, aren’t just meant to be seen by women. Hilarious and harrowing in turn, the eye-opening subject matter deals with everything from sex to love to childbirth, rape, genital mutilation, the search for non-accidental orgasms, to pondering what vaginas would wear—and what they would say if they could talk.

My guess is that after a few minutes of watching The Vagina Monologues, audience members will forget that they’re supposed to be uncomfortable with the content of the performance, and will settle in to enjoy the show. I’m hoping that by the time my monologue comes around, I can even get them to chime in.

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