Not Your Mama's V-Day
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.
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 email@example.com or call 232-7047.
Local American Families
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or call 475-5855.
Official entry forms must accompany all entries and are available at KLRU's official Web site: www.klru.org.