A Funny “Vagina” for Charity

Special performances of Eve Ensler play to benefit AVP, other anti-violence groups

V-Day NYC has teamed up with Double Helix Theatre Company to honor women’s struggles this month with three benefit performances of Eve Ensler’s “The Vagina Monologues.” This fully staged event, part of V-Day 2005’s Worldwide Campaign, will help three local charities—including the New York City Gay and Lesbian Anti-Violence Project (AVP)—that support victims of domestic violence.

A cast of 20 women will perform Ensler’s award-winning play, which deals with female sexuality in a poignant and humorous way. In 2001, Ensler worked with New York women to found V-Day, a project that raises both funds and awareness for women’s issues worldwide.

Director Liz Griffin, head of the V-DAY NYC campaign, decided to combine humor with the monologues as a way to make the show accessible to those who may otherwise not have seen it. Humor prevails, Griffin explained, although the monologues dealing with topics from rape to female genital mutilation are handled with tact.

“On the more serious points, we are more straightforward,” said Griffin. “That is something that you can’t deny; it is not funny and we need to pay attention to it. We’re not trying to skirt this issue… but by bringing people in on a certain level, we can have them understand that there is this very comedic element to the show—that there are funny parts we all experience and can laugh at.”

Griffin said she first worked with “The Vagina Monologues” as a student at Georgetown University several years ago, where conservative student groups protested the play’s staging. Griffin emphasized that even in New York, “even within my group of peers, there are a bunch of people who think similarly to those men in Georgetown, that ‘The Vagina Monologues’ is just for women, or all about lesbians. The material is in no way anti-men, or something that’s just about lesbian experiences; it’s about loving women’s bodies, and being proud to be a woman, and taking control.”

Glennis McMurray, one of the actresses, talked about her role.

“It is about a girl who is a little bit disconnected from her sexuality and her vagina, so she goes to a workshop for women—one of those ones where you look at your vagina in a mirror,” she said. “Since the show is staged and not just reading from a script, it actually takes place in a vagina workshop. Griffin wanted a more comedic feel and actual scenes with costumes and props.”

“I really like the whole show but I think it can be a bit misunderstood in a way, and it can be scary, like how people are scared of feminism, because they have preconceived notions of what it is,” said performer Jackie Clarke. “And I really liked [Griffin’s] way of staging it, because it really is witty. It is a nice opportunity to see a side of ‘The Vagina Monologues’ and feminism that people don’t always see—that it’s not rigid or dogmatic, but that it can be really dynamic and funny.

Clarke will perform the segment called “My Angry Vagina.”

Griffin herself will perform a monologue.

“I am performing a piece called ‘Reclaiming Cunt,’” she said. “My parents are going to be excited to see it… although my father keeps calling it ‘The Virginia Monologues.’”

The event will be staged at two venues on February 24-26, and will benefit three anti-violence based charities—the AVP, Sanctuary For Families and the New York Asian Women’s Center. AVP is dedicated to reducing violence and its impacts on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered New Yorkers as well as HIV-affected individuals. Last year, AVP helped provide between 22,500 and 30,000 direct services to more than 1,500 survivors of bias and hate crimes, domestic violence, police misconduct, rape and sexual assault.

For tickets to the February 24 performance at the Upright Citizens Brigade, call 212-366-9176.

For tickets to the February 25 & 26 performance at the Blue Heron Arts Center, call 212-352-3101.

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