TV Eye

Not Your Mama's V-Day

<i>The Vagina Monologues</i>
The Vagina Monologues

I'd like to say I have a funny story about how I wanted to name a doll Vagina. It rhymes with "Dinah," and it sounds like the kind of thing I'd have done if the word were part of my childhood vocabulary. As it was, I did not learn the word "pregnant" until I was several years into grade school. (The coy alternative "expecting" was what they used on the soaps I watched with my mother before I went off to kindergarten.) But vagina -- it was never mentioned in my house. Ever. I don't think I even knew I had one until junior high. It was always referred to as "Down There," "Your Private Parts," or by the harsh, ugly names that didn't make you feel good about what was down there. And feeling good down there -- that was definitely never mentioned.

So, it was with glee and a profound sense of liberation that I came across Eve Ensler's 1996 play, The Vagina Monologues. This wild, thoughtful, heartbreaking, and hilarious exploration of the least celebrated of women's body parts is the subject of an HBO special premiering Feb. 14.

How does one decide to write a play about vaginas? Ensler's play took root when she asked friends about their vaginas. Their responses were so interesting, so provocative, she expanded her interviews to include more than 200 women from various generations and various cultural, racial, and ethnic backgrounds. The result was her one-woman show, The Vagina Monologues. The play was a critical success, winning an Obie Award as well as Drama Desk and Helen Hayes nominations following the production's original run at New York's Westside Theatre.

"At first women were a little shy, a little reluctant to talk, but once they got going, you couldn't stop them," Ensler says. "Women love to talk about their vaginas. They really do. Mainly because no one's ever asked them before."

In addition to giving breath to an unspoken subject, The Vagina Monologues initiated V-Day, a global campaign to increase awareness and raise funds to help women escape violence and exploitation (www.v-day.org). Now in its fourth year, this year's V-Day campaign runs from Feb. 1 to April 5, with more than 800 benefit performances scheduled around the world.

While the show began as a one-woman show starring Ensler, it evolved to include multiple member casts, often featuring a special celebrity guest. (In June of last year, Linda Ellerbee joined native Austinites Sherri Parker Lee and Starla Benford for a short run at the Paramount Theatre.) This year, Jane Fonda, Lisa Gay Hamilton, Ricki Lake, Rosie Perez, and Gloria Steinem are among the performers who will appear in The Vagina Monologues during the V-Day campaign period.

The HBO special features the original work as performed by Ensler, and documentary footage about the history and the making of the play, plus new on-camera interviews of women by Ensler.

The special presentation of The Vagina Monologues airs on HBO Feb. 14 at 8:30pm. Encore playdates are Feb. 15 (HBO Plus) at 9pm, Feb. 18 at 10:15pm, and Feb. 27 at 2:20am.


Local American Families

In the spirit of the new PBS series, American Family, KLRU is hosting a young writers' and filmmakers' contest. Children between the ages of 5-14 are invited to write stories (prose or poetry) based on some aspect of their family. The submission deadline is March 1. For more information, contact Clifton McMorris at kidsclub@klru.org or call 232-7047.

Cisco Gonzalez, the teen filmmaker in American Family, is his family's unofficial historian. Likewise, local young filmmakers are invited to submit short videos that represent their family (as in a family album). Entries may use photos, old family movies, and original footage to show what makes their Central Texas family unique. Entries will be considered for broadcast on KLRU and for streaming video at www.klru.org. The submission deadline is 5pm on Feb. 28. For more information contact Sativa January at sativa_january@klru.pbs.org or call 475-5855.

Official entry forms must accompany all entries and are available at KLRU's official Web site: www.klru.org.


Early Award Winners

The Writers Guild of America recognized brothers and writing partners Glen and Les Charles with the highest honor given for television writers, the Paddy Chayefsky Laurel Award. The Charles brothers' career took off in 1974 when they began writing episodes for M*A*S*H; they later penned scripts for The Mary Tyler Moore Show and The Bob Newhart Show. In 1978 they became producers and head writers for Taxi. They wrote the pilot for Cheers in 1982, overseeing scripts for the Emmy Award-winning series for 11 years. The Charles brothers have also written for the Cheers spin-off, Frasier. The 54th Annual Writers Guild Awards presentation is set for March 2.


I-Maniacs Unite

Following the lead of Star Trek fans in 1968, fans of the SciFi Channel's The Invisible Man have launched an all-out campaign to save the show. It's difficult to pinpoint I-Maniac headquarters. However, I received a very well-written press release from I-Maniac members in Pleasanton, Calif., decrying the series' demise. So, if you're looking for like-minded fans, e-mail quicksilver@imaniacs.org. They'll turn you on to URLs, message boards, and fan sites.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Eve Ensler, The Vagina Monologues, PBS, V-Day, KLRU, HBO, American Family, I-Maniac, The Invisible Man, The SciFi Channel, Les Charles, Glen Charles, M*A*S*H, Taxi, Cheers, Frasier

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