V-Day Cedar Rapids Presents: The Vagina Monologues
Raygun (Cedar Rapids) — Friday and Saturday, Feb. 15 and 16 at 7 p.m.
RHCR Theatre — Friday, March 8 at 7 p.m.
Last year, community activist Erin Owen, a couple dozen of her friends and some their friends staged The Vagina Monologues by Eve Ensler as a fundraiser. Now, in its second year, event producer Owen is back with some old and new friends to stage this show again. Although the monologues are (mostly) now 21 years old, Owen said that the multi-faceted message of the show is just as pertinent today as it was when it was new, especially in the context of the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements. Jude Johnson, this year’s director, noted that although times have changed, women still benefit from the empowerment of experiencing this show.
There are myriad challenges in putting together a fundraising show. All the actors and support staff are volunteers. The beverages, food and raffle items are all donated by supporters (this year’s sponsors include Karma, Cedar Rapids NOW, Iowa NOW, Jules Bakery, Fireside Winery).
Unlike other fundraising shows, 90 percent of the proceeds go to the local beneficiaries and 10 percent goes to the V-Day fund, a nonprofit founded by Ensler that licenses productions of the play without royalty cost for fundraising purposes. The beneficiaries of this year’s show were chosen with an eye to supporting women in general as well as specific populations. This year’s proceeds will be split between Latinas United for a New Dawn, Planned Parenthood of the Heartland and Tanager Place LGBTQ Youth Center.
The Vagina Monologues is a compilation of Ensler’s interviews with women from a wide variety backgrounds. The actors gathered to rehearse for about three months prior to the show, but show directions call for the director to support the actors’ own investment in and interpretations of the different monologues. Women of all ages will find a monologues that they can connect with. Topics include abuse, sexual assault and women’s sexuality in its many forms.
One content concern that has risen is the lack of inclusion of transwomen and non-binary people. Owen noted that the show does include a monologue titled “They Beat the Girl Out of My Boy … Or So They Tried” (added by Ensler in 2004). This monologue focuses on the horrific bullying of a transgender woman as it traces her transition throughout her life. Other monologues include experiences that are shared by many women across race, socio-economic class and gender identity.
Each year, V-Day Cedar Rapids focuses on a particular population of women. While last year’s show focused on #MeToo, this year’s show puts the spotlight on women in detention centers, formerly incarcerated women and women in prison. Owen noted this focus will reveal numerous disturbing facts about women in prison. For example, while 1.2 percent overall of incarcerated women report sexual assault in prison, transwomen report a 24.1 percent sexual assault in prison.
This year’s cast of women range in age from early teens to late sixties. Julia Robinson, the youngest cast member, said, “I am in The Vagina Monologues because I believe everyone should be heard, and I think this is how I should have my voice heard. It is important to me because we need to keep pushing for [women’s] rights and get better.”
Johnson notes that having a wide range of ages in the show is important, saying, “I think that it is necessary for people to understand that harassment and abuse does not wait until someone is 21.”
It is just that type of consciousness raising that both Owen and Johnson feel is important in this show. The more aware a community is of the issues that its citizens face, the more effectively such issues can be dealt with. As cast member Mary Bardsley said, “The play sheds much needed light on a still taboo topic in many ways. Through the lens of so many women, we are allowed to share in their awe, heartbreak, pain, fear, joy and release. What a beautiful experience.”
While some of the monologues use explicit language, ultimately, Owen said, “One of the best ways to break down stigmas is through laughter; this show is funny and touching. The power of humanity through the monologues can go a long way to changing ideas in a safe environment.”
Performances are set for Feb. 15 and 16 at Raygun (1028 3rd St SE, Cedar Rapids) with a special bonus performance on March 8, International Women’s Day, at RHCR Theatre (1200 2nd Ave SE, Cedar Rapids). All performances open with 6 p.m. cocktail hour before the 7 p.m. show. All shows include snacks and a raffle. Tickets are $25 for adults, $20 for students, and are available online or at Raygun. There are ticket scholarships available for those with demonstrated need.