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Performers Spotlight Abuse With Show by ‘Vagina Monologues’ Author

Written by: Zachary D. ElickFebruary 17, 2016

The Women’s Studies Program and the student group Campus Feminists in Solidarity are hosting staged readings of twelve pieces from Eve Ensler’s “A Memory, A Monologue, A Rant, and A Prayer” at Wunderkammer Company, Feb. 19 and 20.

Ensler, who is most-well known for writing “The Vagina Monologues” in the mid-90s, edited the collection of writings from numerous authors focusing on the issue of violence against women. The over 50 pieces in the collection range from the genres of essays, poems, monologues and short stories.

The authors include writers, celebrities and noted feminists, such as Maya Angelou, Jane Fonda, Kathy Najimy and Howard Zinn.

Called “V-Day Fort Wayne 2016: A Memory, A Monologue, A Rant, and A Prayer,” the two performances of the show will feature twelve scenes, each dedicated to one piece from Ensler’s book, according to co-directors Rae Surface and Joel Miller. Each scene will have more than one performer involved, they said.

The readings will be presented with minimal stage production, partially because the directors want the main focus to be on the stories being told, Miller and Surface said.

“Though, they all are not purely non-fiction, all of [these pieces] are grounded in real stories. Things that have really happened. Things that women actually experience everyday,” Surface said. “You have to be sensitive to that … you are telling those peoples’ stories.”

Both performances will also feature an intermission with music provided by Warsaw musician Celina Hayslett.

Miller and Surface were both tapped to do the show by IPFW alumna, Nikki Meyer, who now works for the Fort Wayne Center of Non-Violence, Surface said. They both also co-directed the Women’s Studies production of “The Vagina Monologues” last February.

Ellie Hernandez, psychology major and president of the student group, OUTspoken, agrees it is important for people to be “open” about the crimes that are often committed against women, she said over the phone.

“It’s important because I care about people. Not only is the show informing the public about these abuses, it is also benefiting our community,” Hernandez said.

All the proceeds from the show will go to the anti-violence group, Fort Wayne Center for Nonviolence, according to the organizers.
The abuses brought up in the readings are not all physical; some of the pieces selected from Ensler’s book deal with sexual and psychological abuse as well, Hernandez said.

Hernandez will be reading a monologue called “The Next Fantastic Leap,” written by Elizabeth Lesser, she said. Centering on a women in a abusive relationship, the speaker of the piece uses the metaphor of biological evolution in order to describe the pre-determined path she feels like she, and many women, can not escape from, Hernandez said. After she eventually breaks free of the destructive relationship, she imagines going back to the time “before the bang” and starting human life over again, this time with more equality between the genders.

Trying Something New

The Women’s Studies Program has co-sponsored a performance of “The Vagina Monologues” on campus, for the last two years, according to Janet Badia, professor and director of the Program.

This was the first year that the rights for “A Memory, A Monologue, A Rant, A Prayer” were made available to them by Ensler’s V-Day organization, Badia said.

“It’ll be good to give [A Memory, A Monologue, A Rant, A Prayer] a try. It’s all new to us,” she said.

When thinking about doing the event Badia wanted to make sure the new material would live up to the more well-known play.

”There’s something about “The Vagina Monologues” that people really love.They are funny and compelling,” she said. “We wanted to make sure [A Memory, A Monologue, A Rant, A Prayer] is as interesting and compelling.”

The department’s decision to move this year’s performance to Wunderkammer was made because of the difficulty of booking space on campus, Badia said.

Not only is it hard to find space that is available, the cost is also too expensive for her department to afford, she said. Wunderkammer was a more affordable choice that provided “more flexibility,” she said.

The money they spend on producing the show is very important to Badia because she wants to make the tickets as affordable as possible.

“It seemed strange to have a show about women that poor women couldn’t come to,” she said.

What is V-Day?

Described as “a global activist movement to stop violence against women and girls,” by its official website, V-Day is a non-profit organization founded by author Eve Ensler in 1998. It’s advocates put on benefit events, such as performances of Ensler’s “The Vagina Monologues” or “A Memory, A Monologue, A Rant, And A Prayer.”

According to organization rules, V-Day events have to be held in the month of February and all proceeds have to be donated to anti-violence groups local to where the events take place.