February, 17, 2018: A collection of The Woman Project attended last Saturday’s evening’s presentation of Eve Ensler’s The Vagina Monologues at The Odeum Theater in East Greenwich. This was the 20th anniversary year of the production. TWP was invited specifically as one of three honored guests to receive the cast-determined “Vagina Warrior Award” for working with “…(compassion) and unwavering commitment to making Rhode Island a safer place for women and girls.”
The evening’s performance began with producer and director Nancy Rafi asking the audience to, in both the spirit of good theater etiquette AND in the spirit of happy vaginas, kindly turn their cell phones to specifically the vibrate setting. Regardless of anyone’s missed calls, the performance was unforgettable, inspiring, and humblingly beautiful!
The other Vagina Warrior Award honorees were State Representative Teresa Tanzi and C Kelly Smith. Teresa Tanzi was recognized for her work in office as well as her bravery this past year through her #metoo post which revealed the sexual harassment she experiences in her political life in our state. C Kelly Smith was recognized for her long-time commitment to women’s rights, LGBTQ+ rights, and social justice issues on a variety of fronts: she has worked for close to two decades escorting women to clinics, answered an AIDS hotline for ten years, worked to improve domestic violence issues in Rhode Island, and helped to win marriage equality in the state. The Woman Project was truly honored to be among such strong and inspirational local women!
For those unfamiliar with Eve Ensler’s play, The Vagina Monologues is based on a collection of actual interviews conducted with real people. Each year the nonprofit organization V-Day helps grassroots performing groups to perform an annually-created version of The Vagina Monologues free of charge to raise money for ending violence against women. V-Day performances happen all over the world between February 1st and March 30th yearly. The funds raised from Saturday’s performance at The Odeum were specifically donated to SafeBAE, a “student-focused, survivor-driven organization whose mission is to raise awareness about sexual assault in middle and high schools and student’s rights under Title IX.” (www.safebae.org)
Before the performance began, The Vagina Warrior recipients were asked to come up to the stage and accept the award. TWP began by thanking EVERYONE whom has ever donated their energy, passion, work, time, intelligence, ideas, and skills to helping the network grow and/or supporting Rhode Island’s The Reproductive Health Care Act. Then, TWP introduced the Quilt Petition (Petition 2.0) to the audience and invited anyone to sign a signature square at the end of the evening in the lobby. Finally, TWP organized a group photo with the audience in the style of an action done by The Guerrilla Girls: audience members had been given a circular poster upon taking a seat in the theater; each poster had a uterus printed on the front and facts about organ equity on the backside; finally everyone was asked to pick up their poster and hold it over their face while remaining seated. From the stage, we snapped some pretty killer photos that totally echo the democratic belief that there is totally strength in numbers! Take a look at the first draft here above.
Once the awards were given, it was time for the real show! The performance contained the array of this year’s curated “monologues” which ranged from the hilariously relate-able (about pubic hair and the awkwardness of OBGYN appointments) to the heart-piercingly tragic (about female genital mutilation and rape as a weapon of war.) Councilors were waiting on-hand in easily-identifiable pink feather boas to speak with audience members who wished to check in any point in the show. Although emotionally difficult to listen to at points, the show’s range of topics underscored how remarkably complex and varying our experiences can be from one another or different points in our lives. One ever-articulated and continuously present theme, however: vaginas sure are tough pussies!
The performance was made up of short scenes, performed by members of “The Vulva Choir.” Projections of images and short video clips were displayed on a large screen at the back of the stage behind the actors to help set tones and themes. Each new scene’s transition was cued and prefaced to the audience by the brilliant and commanding “master of ceremonies,” Lulu Locks who not only guided the experience for the viewer, but also slayed in a rockin’ top hat. Some acts involved only one performer at a time, while others required the entire cast to become animated together. If an actor was not engaged in a particular scene, she sat on stage behind the action, watching their sister-actors deliver lines in what felt like solidarity and awe. One of the most emotional parts of the evening’s performance was when actor Colleen Micheletti shared her own personal vagina monologue on stage. Her bravery was met with misty eyes from her castmates and a standing ovation from the audience. The performance ended with the entire cast alternating turns to deliver a arsenal of reasons why the #metoo movement is so important. It was a beautiful way to conclude a night of perspective-sharing and celebrating our individual and collective strengths.
The other members of The Vulva Choir included (listed in order according to the performance program) Lisa Peterson, Magnolia Perez, Patty Bamford, Amelia Smith, Valerie Desautel, Rachel Kinnevy-Ftizpatrick, Kirsten DiChiappari, Tuni Schartner, Natalie Coletta, Elizabeth Stepp, Linda Willis, Liana Cassar, Melanie Lawhead, Maria Hendricks, Sandra Victorino, Michelle Gonzalez, and Emily Homonoff. Tina Kenny was the stage manager and Amy Young was the projectionist for the event.
(All quotes in this article were taken from the playbill from the event, photos by Liz Gledhill)