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(February 7, 2002, Gazette)

Staging The Vagina Monologues
Personal statement

Photo by HSIMS
Medical students (L-R) Kathleen Dooling and Kathryn Olsen are co-producing The Vagina Monologues.

Eve Ensler’s award-winning play, The Vagina Monologues, has spawned a global movement to end violence against women. First produced in 1996, the play is a theatrical adaptation of a book by the same name containing 17 monologues based on interviews with a diverse group of women.

Now the play will be produced in St. John’s, thanks to the effort of medical students Kathleen Dooling and Kathryn Olsen and a cast of about 30 women, both students and women from the larger community. The co-directors are Danielle Irvine and Terri Andrews.

For Ms. Dooling, the book opened her eyes to a new way of thinking about the female body.

“I was frustrated with a lack of vocabulary, even in the medical profession, and a lack of comfort with genital terms for women. I was venting to my Mom one night about this; she had just borrowed The Vagina Monologues from the library and gave it to me to read. I read it cover to cover that evening.”

Ms. Dooling was immediately interested in mounting a local production of the play when she read at the end of the book that the author gives away the copyright to her play annually for college campuses and community groups to raise money for the V-Day campaign to help end violence against women. This is a campaign which started in 1998 proclaiming Valentine’s Day as V-Day until the violence stops and women live in safety.

Co-producer Kathryn Olsen had the good fortune to see The Vagina Monologues performed professionally in Chicago.

“It was an excellent performance and a vehicle which started me thinking about issues and topics I might not have thought of otherwise. It’s a way to challenge the box we all build around ourselves.”

Ms. Olsen explained that this production is not just about putting on the best theatrical performance, but about mobilizing women.

“We want to empower women, let them stand up and say ‘this is my body, I’m proud of it, I’m taking charge.’”

There are 17 monologues in the play, many consisting of lists in answer to questions such as “If your vagina could talk, what would it say.” Some of the titles of the other dialogues are: If your vagina got dressed, what would it wear? The Vagina Workshop; Vagina Fact — Genital Mutilation; and My Angry Vagina.

The Vagina Monologues will take place Saturday, Feb. 23, at 8 p.m. in the main auditorium in the medical school, Health Sciences Centre, with a possible second or third showing depending on ticket sales. Tickets are $10 for students and seniors, $15 for others, and can be obtained at the Arts and Culture Centre Box Office starting Feb. 4. Proceeds will go to the Iris Kirby House, a shelter for abused women and their children, the Newfoundland and Labrador Sexual Assault Crisis Centre, and services for female students on campus.