Vagina Monologues brings stories to life

New addition to monologues about love, not just violence

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

As this year marks the 10th anniversary of the international V-Day campaign, dedicated to eliminating violence against women, the cast and crew of The Vagina Monologues at Western could not be more excited for their annual performance.

“This is the 10th year of V-Day " the international campaign " so they really wanted to make it a big celebration, a revolution and to let the campaign grow,” Vagina Monologues producer Sarah Scanlon says. “The campaign has changed a lot. The Vagina Monologues itself has been changed; some pieces have been taken out, a piece has been added, and it’s been funked up a bit.”

One of the biggest changes will be the addition of A Memory, A Monologue, A Rant and a Prayer (MMRP), a new piece that will be performed separately from The Vagina Monologues on Saturday, Feb. 16 at 2 p.m.

MMRP has been added this year because ... after 10 years, things like this can become stagnant,” Scanlon explains. “That’s kind of scary, because this is not about a play, it’s about a campaign that’s trying to change our world and make it a better place, free of gender violence.”

A Memory, A Monologue, A Rant and a Prayer began with Eve Ensler, the award-winning author of The Vagina Monologues, which has been translated into over 45 languages and is currently running in theatres around the world.

“Ensler did a call out to a bunch of different writers to write about gender violence and humanitarian issues going on around the world,” Scanlon says. “They all wrote monologues ... and we were given the opportunity, out of the 50 pieces, to choose our favourite 10, the ones that spoke to us. Then, we made that into this year’s MMRP.”

Alex Ratzki-Leewing, who directed A Memory, a Monologue, A Rant and a Prayer, says that bringing someone’s story to life is not without its challenges.

“The hardest thing about trying to tell somebody else’s story is trying to tell it in a way that will be effective and as close to that person’s [vision] as possible,” she says. “Working with these monologues " sometimes three, four, five of them a day " it takes a toll on you.

“They are all really tragic monologues, but they are all very real. In so many ways, they affect you. Regardless of whether you have been raped or whether you have experienced child abuse, the emotion is so real and we’ve all felt those emotions.”

Ratzki-Leewing reveals that bringing important issues to light was a source of motivation for her.

“It’s not like people will go out and talk about these issues every day,” she says. “Often, people never talk about these issues and things that they have experienced. I saw it as though every monologue was being told for the first time.”

Mallika Chaudhuri, the director of The Vagina Monologues, reflects on the differences between the two pieces, which are both part of the V-Day campaign to end violence against women around the world.

“In terms of The Vagina Monologues, it’s more about the vagina,” she says. “It’s more about embracing yourself and embracing who you are as a woman.

“As far as MMRP goes, it’s a lot more serious and it talks about issues that are going on in the world. It’s a lot more expansive. It crosses borders more than anything else.”

Scanlon also draws distinctions between The Vagina Monologues and A Memory, MMRP.

The Vagina Monologues is very much a roller coaster of emotions,” she says. “It’s sexy. It’s tragic. It’s funny. It’s heart wrenching.

MMRP is a lot more detailed,” she continues. “It’s looking specifically at current issues that are happening now and that are very much real. This is a person’s story, something that person cares a lot about it. It’s a lot more focused on certain issues and it’s bringing a focus to things that maybe didn’t have a voice.”

Elyse Maltin, who has been a cast member in The Vagina Monologues for four years, explains the significance of performing these pieces on or around Valentine’s Day each year.

“Valentine’s Day is supposed to be about love and the “V” in V-Day is not just for vagina, but victory and Valentine,” Maltin says. “In my mind, The Vagina Monologues is around Valentine’s Day because the whole day is supposed to be centred on love.

“We are not just trying to focus on violence, although that is an integral part of V-Day,” she adds. “A huge part of V-Day is about breaking the mold of silence. But another part of it is celebrating women, celebrating our lives, our safety, our creativity and putting more love into the world.

“Peace isn’t just the absence of violence, it’s the presence of love.”

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