GetAsia.com: "Multiple Orgasms on Stage"
By Sharon M Tan
Three barefoot women in black, perched on bar stools and having multiple orgasms - that's what The Vagina Monologues at Jubilee Hall promised and delivered.
This highly acclaimed, groundbreaking play by Eve Ensler won an Obie Award in 1997. It has since been performed in more than 35 countries around the world and has been translated into some 25 languages.
The New Voice Company from the Philippines was granted the license to stage the play in Asia. The Vagina Monologues had sell-out runs in the Philippines and in Hongkong before it came here to Singapore.
Don't expect fancy staging, lavish costumes or props. And even though the actresses giving the monologues are accomplished performers, they are not what you should remember about the play.
The original Filipino cast of Monique Wilson, Dulce Aristorenas and Tami Monsod, excellent as they are, are merely messengers. The star of the evening was The Vagina Monologues – the play.
Provocative, uninhibited, frank and funny. The individual stories of various women - from a 72-year-old woman who's never discovered her clitoris to a Kosovo woman who's been brutally raped by soliders to a dominatrix who demonstrates several sexual moans - come alive through the monologues.
Whether you want it or not, you are pulled into a world of women's experiences, a world that's sometimes fraught with pain, indignities, subjugation and hurt. Whether you want it or not, you are told what a vagina is and what it feels like to have one.
Eve Ensler, the playwright, is a passionate activist in the fight against violence towards women. She is an advocate for V-Day, a movement that helps fund women's organisations, which works to stop violence against women.
Her play, The Vagina Monologues, has always been the centrepiece at V-Day gatherings and a platform for women to speak up for their rights.
"I think a play like this liberates people to explore what it is they feel and to have the courage to speak up about it, especially women who are subject to abuse and violations," explains Monique Wilson, artistic director and actress with The New Voice Company.
"In most societies, we just keep quiet about those things that are attached to being shameful, whereas in a play like this we feel the strength to talk about things that should not be done. And I think it liberates women a lot because they feel that they have a right to voice out."
In keeping with the ideals of the playwright, proceeds from the show go towards the support of The Purple Rose Campaign, which seeks to end sex trafficking of Filipino women and children.
The Vagina Monologues may seem outrageous and vulgar to the more conservative in the audience, but that would mean that they missed the point. "You need to get into the text, otherwise it would just be a vulgar, funny play," says Dulce Aristorenas, one of the three women performing the monologues.
"That's not what it's all about. As actresses, we give voice to millions of women out there who have to be silent about their situations and all the issues affecting them. So we have a huge responsibility on our part to open people's minds to the text."
"It's difficult to get through the initial barrier of people thinking it's just another titillating, pornographic piece," adds Wilson. "So we really have to be advocates and activists, almost."
This award-winning play is a must-see. If you only have to watch one production this year, make it The Vagina Monologues.
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