Saturday, February 16, 2008

Vagina Mono-blog

I can't let the situation with Jane Fonda and the Vagina Monologues go by without a comment.
Several years ago I auditioned for a part in that play that was being put on by a local HAWK group at the West End Theater in Gloucester, MA. I'd seen the show and thought it would be great fun except for one monologue. It had made a strong impression on me for it's heavy use of one word that I never liked: the "C" word. That part did go to Sara Slifer who was young and edgy with a lithe and strong dancer's build. She more than did it justice. Watching her perform nightly definately shifted me past a long held view point to a less charged place. I got "The Village" which is the voice of a young woman who had been gang raped by soldiers. I cried when I read it cold for the audition. Of the several times I performed it I always had a strong reaction. It was one of the few monologues that did not elicit laughter and wild applause. At the end of the monologue I'd walk back to my chair while the audience sat in shocked silence. I felt uncomfortable but I wanted to do that part to honor the woman and her words. During the run of the show I performed about five different parts. The lighter ones were fun to do but they lacked the satisfaction of The Village. I loved every aspect of that experience. Directed by and thanks to Lynda Robinson, the group of local women pulled together in a short time. The sum of the parts was definately greater than the (w)hole. A few years later the process was repeated with another run and a slightly different cast with the same positive connections. I never performed The Village again.
Just when I believe that this current generation has the benefit of all those hard won changes, I see that some things persist. I guess I assumed that due to the openness of all kinds of language being used that the shock value of some words has been muffled. This morning Meredith Vieira is interviewing Eve Ensler who wrote the Vagina Monologues and Jane Fonda who was asked to perform the very monologue that I had dreaded. My guess is that she just said the name of the monologue knowing it would draw attention but knowing that in this context there was no pussy footing around the subject. Later Meredith Vieira apologises for causing anyone discomfort. But in the context of the subject which is more important, imparting the power and purpose of this play while educating the viewers or making sure no one is uncomfortable? It is through examining what makes us uncomfortable and why that helps difuse out dated responses. By skirting discomfort growth is curtailed.
Blog On!


Chris said...

That word ranks right up there in my list of disliked words. In fact, I hate that word. But I googled, found a clip of the unedited original, and really. I wonder what's the big deal. In that situation, Jane Fonda used the right word. It was the title, and her rejection of the role based on the title is self explanatory, particularly given her statement "I have enough problems." BTW, I like your use of "pussy footing" in your post. LOL

Mo said...

I conpletely agree with what both you and Chris said. In addition, what never ceases to astonish me is the tolerance, if not appetite, of the American public for violence in their "entertainment" while they react puritancially towards a word for female body parts.

Unknown said...

Well done, Leslie. I have to admit, I really admired you for being in that production. I don't think i could have done it.

Johanna Bohoy said...

As always from the heart.

Blog on Leslie.


Pat E said...

Well said,,Leslie and all.. I find as I grow older that in order to grow you must move beyond your confort zone..Of what you have been told should be your confort zone