Sunday, December 6, 2015

6 January: The Vagina Monolgues

Firstly, many many thanks for the very kind gift you gave me in December.  At time of writing I am looking forward very much to the theatre trip and dinner (two of my favourite things!).  It was a very thoughtful and appropriate present, but I really must reiterate that I do find this such fun to do and am incredibly grateful that Rina makes it so much easier to administer!

I have to say that I am truly delighted that you all seem to enjoy this group so much: your pleasure really makes it all worth while.

I am so glad that The Play That Goes Wrong went so well and that we were all able to enjoy the humour of the piece even though it relies so much on the physicality of the actors and an amazing set!

January: The Vagina Monolgues

I don't need to tell  you what next month's play is!  I think we all know!  I will not be offended if anyone opts to skip the meeting because they feel this play is a step too far. 

What I will say is that it is a period piece of its time (1996), a ground-breaking feminist work that today might seem rather dated and excessive in its use of 'choice' (non-native English speakers, that's a euphemism for 'rude') language and the subject matter it tackles.

It is not a work I have found easy to include in our schedule.  It started as a bit of a joke, but the more I think about it the more I believe it is a piece of history that we should not be ashamed to read.

Whilst the language might make us blush and giggle with embarrassment, I don't think it's there just for the sake of shocking.  New Yorker Eve Ensler, who at the time was in her early 40s (not that that's particularly relevant!) based her work on real women, many from the poorer parts of American society who will have spoken to her freely.

It is funny, shocking and very moving.  It is a serious work, not just an opportunity for a writer to get people to say or listen to words and sentences that will make us feel uncomfortable.  I hope that those of you who are in two-minds about this work will give it a chance. 

Charles Isherwood of The New York Times called the play "probably the most important piece of political theater of the last decade." In 2011, Ensler was awarded the Isabelle Stevenson Award at the 65th Tony Awards, which recognizes an individual from the theater community who has made a substantial contribution of volunteered time and effort on behalf of humanitarian, social service, or charitable organizations. Ensler originally starred in the production, but since then it has been performed by a variety of famous people as monologues or individual pieces - and of course by amateurs!

In 1998, Ensler and others launched V-Day, a global non-profit movement that has raised over $100 million for groups working to end violence against women and girls anti-violence through benefits of The Vagina Monologues

In a strange twist of fate, in 2010 Ensler revealed that she was receiving treatment for Uterine Cancer.

Wikipedia has a long list of the awards that Ensler has received.  Because I think that this work should not be viewed as a piece designed to shock, rather a work to raise awareness and address female issues, I am reprinting the list in full.  It is very impressive and, I feel, shows how art and social awareness can work together:

  • Tony Award – In 2011, Ensler was awarded the Isabelle Stevenson Award at the 65th Tony Awards, which recognizes an individual from the theater community who has made a substantial contribution of volunteered time and effort on behalf of humanitarian, social service, or charitable organizations.
  • Obie Award for The Vagina Monologues, 1997
  • Guggenheim Fellowship Award in Playwriting, 1999
  • Berrilla-Kerr Award for Playwriting, 2000
  • Elliot Norton Award for Outstanding Solo Performance, 2001
  • Amnesty International Media Spotlight Award for Leadership, 2002
  • The Matrix Award, 2002
  • Jury Award for Theater at the US Comedy Arts Festival, 2002
  • Lion of Judah by the United Jewish Communities, 2002
  • Sundance Film Festival's Freedom of Expression Award for What I Want my Words to do to You, 2003
  • Honorary Doctor of Letters degree from her alma mater, Middlebury College, 2003
  • NETC Theatre Award, a regional Boston theatre award, 2004
  • NOW Award from the Intrepid Award Gala, 2004
  • The Civil Revolutionary Award from Miami Dade College, 2004
  • Award for International Peace Efforts from Cardozo Law School, 2004
  • The Avon Award, 2005
  • The Sandra Day O'Connor Award from the Arizona Foundation for Women, 2005
  • Honorary Doctor of Human Letters from Manhattanville College, 2005
  • Honorary Doctor of Communications from Simmons College, 2006
  • City of New York Proclamation in honor of founding and her work for V-Day, 2006
  • OK2BU Humanitarian Award In recognition of outstanding contributions to the LGBT community, 2006
  • Honorary speaker D010 at TED Talks, Dec 2010
  • Ensler has also been honored for her effort to end violence against women and girls by such organizations as Planned Parenthood (2004, 2006), The Women's Prison Association (2004), Sahkti (2004), and several LGBT centers (2004, 2006)

Eve Ensler

Some Quotes from The Vagina Monologues

“When you rape, beat, maim, mutilate, burn, bury, and terrorize women, you destroy the essential life energy on the planet.”

“The heart is capable of sacrifice. So is the vagina. The heart is able to forgive and repair. It can change it's shape to let us in. It can expand to let us out. So can the vagina. It can ache for us and stretch for us, die for us and bleed and bleed us into this difficult, wondrous world. So can the vagina. I was there in the room. I remember.”

“No wonder male religious leaders so often say that humans were born in sin—because we were born to female creatures. Only by obeying the rules of the patriarchy can we be reborn through men. No wonder priests and ministers in skirts sprinkle imitation birth fluid over our heads, give us new names, and promise rebirth into everlasting life.”

“Looking at it, I started crying. Maybe it was knowing that I had to give up the fantasy, the enormous life consuming fantasy , that someone or something was going to do this for me – the fantasy that someone was coming to lead my life, to choose direction, to give me orgasms.”

“I didn’t hear words that were accurate, much less prideful. For example, I never once heard the word clitoris. It would be years before I learned that females possessed the only organ in the human body with no function than to feel pleasure. (If such an organ were unique to the male body, can you imagine how much we would hear about it—and what it would be used to justify?)”

“I bet you're worried. I was worried. I was worried about vaginas. I was worried about what we think about vaginas, and even more worried that we don't think about them.”

“I was worried about my own vagina. It needed a context of other vaginas-- a community, a culture of vaginas. There's so much darkness and secrecy surrounding them-- like the Bermunda Triangle.”

“It's a totally ridiculous, completely unsexy word. If you use it during sex, trying to be politically correct-- "Darling, could you stroke my vagina?"-- you kill the act right there. I'm worried about vaginas, what we call them and don't call them.”

“To love women, to love our vaginas, to know them and touch them and be familiar with who we are and what we need. To satisfy ourselves, to teach our lovers to satisfy us, to be present in our vaginas, to speak of them out loud, to speak of their hunger and pain and loneliness and humor, to make them visible so they cannot be ravaged in the dark without great consequence, so that our center, our point, our motor, our dream, is no longer detached, mutilated, numb, broken, invisible, or ashamed.”

“The African specialist Nahid Toubia puts it plain [when speaking of female genital mutilation]: In a man it would range from amoutation of most of the penis, to "removal of all the penis, its roots of soft tissue and part of the scrotal skin.”

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