If the word vagina makes you uncomfortable, then you’re not alone. But Valerie Lavelle and JinHi Soucy Rand, directors of Bay Street Theatre’s production of “The Vagina Monologues,” say the mission behind their production is not to make you feel uncomfortable or to “hate on men,” but rather to help raise awareness about violence against women.
For those not familiar with “The Vagina Monologues,” the award-winning play was written and performed by Ensler off Broadway and spotlights the mystery, humor, pain, power, wisdom, outrage and excitement buried in women’s experiences. And, according to Rand, every February the play is performed as part of V-Day benefits around the world to raise funds and awareness to end violence against women.
“I think we are all doing it because of the continued acceptance and tolerance — and in some ways encouragement — of violence toward women around the world,” Rand says. “The fact that we continue to do it — and we do it proudly — says a lot. But at the same time, it’s kind of heartbreaking that we are still in a place where we need to rise up and say that over half of the people in the world are not being treated fully as humans and it’s acceptable to inflict violence on women. … It all goes back to equality and being legally protected as equals. And the violence that is acceptable in some parts of the world as a part of law is beyond what a lot of people are aware of.”
Both directors have performed or directed “The Vagina Monologues” several times in their careers, and Lavelle says she is amazed by the responses she receives every time.
“There is not a single year where … I haven’t heard from somebody who came away and learned something new … They say things like, ‘I never realized that even other women felt the same way I feel about this issue.’
“There are monologues or pieces from women of all different ages, races and different backgrounds, so it’s really amazing to see that and have all of that in one place … This is the one thing we have in common, but within that there is so many different things about it.”
And that thing she is referring to is what we seemed to be skipping over during our talk, and Rand quickly picked up on it.
“I think even ‘we’ avoid using that word when being interviewed and it shows that people are uncomfortable talking about vaginas, even women. The monologues included that … the interviews involved talking about their discomfort when talking about it … as well as the people around them.
“The different monologues tell the story in a broad array of styles, including comedy, including anger … and a sort of sadness or loss for some. … I think that’s part of why every time we do the play, there are members of the cast that come away with different things as well as people in the audience … who came to kind of stick their toes in the water in a room where we are talking about vaginas.”
The directors explain that the cast for these two performances includes about 16 women from all different types of careers. Some of the actors have never seen the show or been in a theatrical performance.
“This year’s global campaign is focused on violence against women in the workplace, so having women from different careers was important,” Rand says.
The show will also feature a new artistic element, as female artists and vendors will be set up at the theater and a portion of their proceeds will also go to the Rape Crisis Center. Local artist Brittany Curry will be in the audience during the Friday night show creating the live drawings she is known for at events like Emergent Savannah meetings. Her artwork can be found at inkybrittany.com.
Lavelle adds that they will be collecting women’s sanitary products as well to donate to Agape Empowerment Ministries as part of their campaign to help homeless women in Savannah.
“I will invite everyone who has seen the show to come again, and I also invite anyone who has not seen the show,” Rand says. “It’s a show that is for all genders, all sexual orientations … to come for what I think will be a welcoming talk about vaginas.”
IF YOU GO
What: Bay Street Theatre presents “The Vagina Monologues”
When: 7:30 p.m. Feb. 23-24
Where: Bay Street Theatre, 1 Jefferson St.
Cost: $20 for table seat; $15 for standing; 18 and older