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Fort Wayne Women’s Bureau brings back The Vagina Monologues
A surprise success here in 2003, the international phenomenon returns for another performance
By Michael Summers
Fort Wayne Reader
If the purpose of a title is to grab attention, then The Vagina Monologues could be seen as a huge success. Since Eve Ensler’s series of monologues and dialogues about women opened in 1996, it’s had its fair share of controversy, most of it focused on the title.
When the Fort Wayne Women’s Bureau got the license to perform The Vagina Monologues in 2003, they weren’t sure what to expect. Just a few months earlier, IPFW’s production of Corpus Christi had generated a huge amount of protest. Though the two plays have nothing in common, Ronnie Greenberg, President and CEO of the Women’s Bureau, says they thought there might be some kind of backlash. “Just putting the word ‘vagina’ on the marquee… we weren’t sure what would happen,” she says.
Larry Life, the chair of the Theatre Department at IPFW, directed the 2003 production, and I asked if he thought Fort Wayne would be hesitant to see a play called The Vagina Monologues. “Why would they be hesitant?” he says. “I know some people will be. I guess if it were called The Penis Papers people would be flocking to it. I don’t know why that word scares people…”
But here’s the catch: staid, conservative Fort Wayne did flock to see the 2003 production of The Vagina Monologues. The performance at the Performing Arts Center sold out almost immediately. “There was literally standing room only,” Greenberg says. “It was so well accepted by the community. We didn’t have any negative words at all.”
Maybe we’re more open-minded than we give ourselves credit for. Or maybe the play isn’t as provocative or confrontational as one might assume. Or maybe the city was just helping a good cause. Whatever the reason for the overwhelmingly positive response, the Fort Wayne Women’s Bureau is bringing The Vagina Monologues back for a second performance in Fort Wayne at the Scottish Rite Center on February 26.
The performance will mark V-Day, a global movement to stop violence against women and girls, started by The Vagina Monologues playwright Eve Ensler. Ensler established the V-Day Foundation, which owns the rights to The Vagina Monologues and controls who can put on the performance. Essentially, a community group or a college group can produce the play, as long as the proceeds go to support an organization that works to end violence against women. “The V-Day foundation has very strict guidelines,” Ronnie Greenberg says. “They want the performance to be around Valentine’s Day. All over the world, there are performances of this play going on in the two weeks either side of Valentine’s Day. There were close to a thousand performances world wide last year.”
The proceeds for the performance will go to the Fort Wayne Women’s Bureau, which works with women who are victims of violence. “One of our programs is our Rape Awareness program,” Greenberg says. “We provide counseling for women who have been victims of sexual assault, and we also do education for teenagers and college-age women about how to be safe and the prevalence of sexual assault in that age group, because that’s one of the highest prevalence age group for sexual assault.”
The play consists of monologues and dialogues about women. Ensler adds a few new optional monologues every year, and updates or modifies some of the older ones. Many of the monologues are just flat out hysterical. Others start off as very funny, and then take a serious turn. Others are just heart-wrenching from the first word.
“There are some words that might be a little ‘in your face,’ but it’s a different kind of provocative than what you might see on prime-time TV,” says Greenberg. “I think of it as more honest. The kind of sharing done in The Vagina Monologues is more open and based on who the woman is and what she experienced.”
Larry Life is once again taking up directing duties for the 2005 performance, and he says that the production this time around will be much bigger, with a couple of Ensler’s new monologues added as well. “I’m looking at it very differently,” he says. “It’s a very moving piece, but it’s also a very funny piece, and so I’m looking upon it as kind of a celebration of women. I have 22 actresses, there will be singing, and I’m adding dance to it again.” The 22 Fort Wayne actresses range in age from 18 to their early 70s.
“I learned so much the last time I did this show, and I’m learning even more now about things that it was not politically correct to talk about,” Life adds. “I think we’ve done women a great disservice by not letting them be open about their bodies and who they are.”
The most important aspect of V-Day is raising community education and awareness of violence towards women. Despite years of education on the nature of sexual assault, Greenberg says our society tends to fall back on the old stereotype of blaming the victim, and the dangerous assumption that sexual assault only happens to a certain kind of woman. “Rape is not a crime of passion, it’s a crime of violence and dominance, one person’s dominance over another,” Greenberg says. “Until a community understands how much violence there is in its own community towards women, they’re not going to do anything about it.”
The Vagina Monologues
Saturday, February 26, 2005
Scottish Rite Center, 431 West Berry
Tickets: $35; $30 Women’s Bureau Members; $10 students; $80 VIP Seating; $135 for VIP seating and dinner at the Summit Club
Call the Scottish Rite Center Box Office, (260) 423-2593.
For more information on V-Day, go to www.vday.org.