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Ellen W. Lytle

the Vagina Monologues eight years later;
'they right something so wrong…'


New York City Women Ending FGM
Present The Vagina Monologues
Two performances, benefiting The Tasaru Ntomok
Rescue Center in Kenya, took place on March 3rd;
one at 2pm and one at 8pm; at the Helen Mills Theatre,
147 West 26 street, NYC and was directed by Larry
Waxman and produced by Nicole Cicerani and Ushma Pandya.
Reviewed March 9, 2007 by Ellen W. Lytle

Growing up I never liked the word 'vagina' , none of us did! In fact it wasn't until I saw the original Vagina Monologues (with Audra McDonald) that I was even slightly comfortable with the term. That was about eight years ago. Still, not particularly liking the play, but afterwards hurrying down 42nd street towards a subway on a frigid evening in 1999, I suddenly recognized what a ground breaking piece of work Eve Ensler had created. If for nothing else than millions and millions of women feeling more comfortable with their (our) own anatomy. Certainly to be able to say the word out loud without castigation or self consiousness. But I don't think at the time any of us realized what a tool Vagina Monologues might become in the brave struggle to fight female genital mutilation, which has already succeeded in disfiguring more than 140,000,000 women, mostly in Africa. Well the world certainly was smaller, even eight years ago, but now we have no excuse to ignore what's going on around the planet and this production company, cast and director donated their talent and time to help. These two performances honored an African woman, Agnes Pareiyo, a victim of f.g.m. herself, who spreads the word in towns and cities by setting up more and more rescue centers throughout the continent. Tasaru Ntomok is her creation and the headquarters in Africa where women seek refuge but first the notion that human females too can experience pleasure, and indeed deserve it, must be spread around the globe. To think of cutting girl's clitoris' and or mutilating their vaginas in the 21st century is obscenely barbaric but terrifyingly real in parts of our world; anyone interested can sign up for advocacy or a donation or just visit the website; www.americansforunffpa.org to know more.

Meanwhile this production of V.M. was so absolutely enjoyable that I snuggled into my seat, in this spanking new theatre, on an equally frigid night, and wished the play would never end. First of all I don't remember the original cast having a dozen relaxed women sitting in a semi circle talking to the audience and one another. I just remember microphones and more spiel like monologues than tonight's 'rappings' that actually added lilt and motion to almost all the performances. I have to think it's Larry Waxman's brilliant direction (and possibly eight years of refined evolving) that lightened the load of women and vaginas. Most of the dozen, my daughter, Stacey Nelkin, included, sailed across the small stage and tilted their lines as if blowing bubbles. They had fun with a topic that could weigh down helium and most of the dozen are not professional actors like Stacey, but you'd never know it. They did a superlative job with out being self conscious or preachy.

For me one of the most salient monologues, which I remembered from the original, is when an older woman tells her story of being a young girl and going out with her boyfriend in his new car, 'park and neck' and she floods the front seat with her orgasm; he gets annoyed and other than making fun of her neither talks or asks her out again. Tonight's actor played this with empathy as well as pathos. Of course fifty plus years ago, women/girls weren't supposed to 'come'! Can you imagine 100 years ago , like the bound feet of Asians and the concubines of Africa and the mid- east, western women had their own suffering; ignorance.

Some really memorable lines; 'my vagina sings all girl songs…my vagina, my hometown'- 'my vagina is like a wet water village'- 'my cutchi snortcha (vagina) is a very bad place'- Some very special monologues include; two people; a man and a woman going into her vagina and getting lost- another's vagina is angry and won't leave the house and doesn't want to smell like rain or watermelon; it wants to smell like pussy- 'my short skirt is not an invitation for you to rip it off…my short skirt and everything underneath is mine, mine mine'- what's so special about your vagina? Deep inside it has a very smart brain- and last but so potent; 'I suppose we have to have vagina monologues- kind'a like vitamins or soy or two mile walks each day- they help us like ourselves- they right something so wrong that we need to grovel in fetid embarrassment before we can stand up and before we can fully love ourself…'

Well, reluctantly it ended with Stacey delivering Ensler's dramatic, albeit complicated and difficultly self concious piece, about watching her own daughter's childbirth; starting 'I was there when your vagina opened…' and showed us the full circle of birth it protected and a line, that the heart can die for us… so can… the vagina?

The Original script was written by Eve Ensler, who I'm told allows only two successive performances to run at any one venue.

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