By ASHLEY ANDERSON
“V is for victory, Valentine – and vagina.”
Sally Evans and Barbara O’Daniel shared a laugh as the two referenced the upcoming Valentine’s Day opening of “The Vagina Monologues” at the University of Louisville and all it encompasses, not only as a play, but as a platform for awareness and action.
In its 10th year on campus, “The Vagina Monologues” will run Thursday, Feb. 14, through Sunday, Feb. 16. While a unique way to spend the Valentine’s holiday, the play’s main purpose is to support the fight to end sexual and physical abuse of women. “This (show) is more based in wanting to get the message out,” said O’Daniel, director of this year’s UofL production of “The Vagina Monologues.” “Not that it’s not funny. There’s a lot of funny pieces in it, but this is more of a message show.”
Written in 1996 by playwright and activist Eve Ensler, “The Vagina Monologues” addresses women’s sexuality and the social stigma surrounding rape and abuse. Running Off-Broadway and touring the U.S., Ensler found after every performance women waiting to share their own stories of survival, leading her to realize “The Vagina Monologues” could be more than a moving work of art on violence. On Valentine’s Day 1998, Ensler and a group of women in New York City established V-Day, a global activist movement to end violence against women and girls that raises funds and awareness through benefit productions of “The Vagina Monologues” as well as other community activities.
“(‘The Vagina Monologues’) is done as part of V-Day,” O’Daniel said. “(Ensler) writes a new (script) every year.” The monologues in the show are typically performed as a sort of presentation to the audience, but O’Daniel has chosen to set the play in a style similar to a women’s support group, with females of varying ages sharing their stories with one another.
The UofL cast is comprised of individuals ranging from students to alumnae, community members and a few professional actresses. The show will also feature celebrity guest performers, including WAKY 103.5 FM radio host Leesa Mitchell, UofL Woman and Gender Studies professor Dr. Kaila Story and The Voice-Tribune’s Angie Fenton, who will play the role of narrator during one of the three performances. Crescent Hill Radio’s “Take it from Tara” host Tara Bassett will act in the play throughout the show’s entirety.
Following the Saturday performance, a “talk-back” will be held with the audience, allowing interaction with the cast and the opportunity to express personal experiences relating to the play. A similar “talk-back” is scheduled for 9 p.m. on Feb. 15 at UofL’s Community Park for men to discuss the issues addressed in the show. Audience participation at the performances is also encouraged, especially in light of this year’s theme for V-Day: One Billion Rising.
In today’s world, one billion women will be raped or beaten in their lifetime. On Valentine’s Day, V-Day’s 15th anniversary, the organization is inviting one billion women, and those who love them, to walk out, dance, rise up and demand an end to the violence. UofL’s production of “The Vagina Monologues” is also suggesting women – and men – stand up at the end of the play, sharing why they rise up against violence.
“Being so prevalent here at UofL, college campuses are especially susceptible to issues like this,” said Evans, program coordinator for UofL’s Prevention, Education and Advocacy on Campus and in the Community (PEACC). “Certainly people in all different ages are, but especially 18 to 24, 18 to 26, and it’s for college campuses right about 1 in 4 women will be either sexually violated or physically hurt in a relationship, or stalked while in college.
“The primary message of this play is to be a voice for those who don’t have a voice. And so really try to help people connect to that person or that population, or someone in their life, maybe it’s even themselves, that have not been heard, who have been silenced, who are a little bit powerless in different ways. And helping them connect. That truth that needs to be told. Sort of that hidden confession or just acknowledgment about your body or about others that’s finally able to be spoken on stage. So I think it’s just really empowering for people to claim that and say I’m going to be the one to speak on behalf of whoever that person is.”
The curtain of “The Vagina Monologues” will open at 7 p.m. Feb. 14 through 16 at the Belknap Playhouse at Freedom Park, at the corner of Cardinal Boulevard and Third Street. Tickets are $8 for students with an ID and $10 for faculty, staff and the community. For tickets, visit uoflvday2013.eventbrite.com or purchase at the door with cash or check.
Proceeds from the ticket sales will support the UofL PEACC Program and VDAY.org. T-shirts with “One Billion Rising” will also be sold. Visit the PEACC website, louisville.edu/peacc, and “Faces of PEACC” on Facebook for more information on how to participate in “One Billion Rising.”
Contact writer Ashley Anderson at firstname.lastname@example.org, 502.498.2051.