On February 28, 15 women from Niagara are coming together to raise money and awareness in an effort to end violence against women through their production of the important piece of theatre, The Vagina Monologues.
Originally written by Eve Ensler and developed and premiered Off-Off-Broadway in 1996, The Vagina Monologues consists of nine monologues that explore ideas of ‘consensual and nonconsensual sexual experiences, body image, genital mutilation, direct and indirect encounters with birth, vaginal care, menstrual periods, sex work, and several other topics through the eyes of women with various ages, races, sexualities, and other differences.’
In 1998, Ensler launched the V-Day campaign, a global non-profit movement that has raised over $100 million for groups to end violence against women through the profits raised from different productions of The Vagina Monologues.
“It transforms women’s lives every year I do it. I find myself compelled to continue to put life into this play because it’s a very special experience,” said six-time Director Genevieve Jones, who originally began directing the production in Halifax in 2013.
Collen McTigue, Assisstant Director and transgender woman, resonated with Jones’ statement: “I’m actually one of the women who’s life has been transformed because of this play. The first time I was a member of the cast, I was still not very sure of myself as a woman. I wasn’t very comfortable with myself, and by being part of the cast, going through the rehearsals and finding the acceptance of the other cast members, it really helped me find my footing and helped me feel connected to other women. It really was a transformative experience for me.”
For others, it’s a chance to hone their acting skills. Erica Sherwood, who performed duties as lighting designer in the 2018 production of Jones’ The Vagina Monologues at the FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre, enjoyed the production so much that she offered to act in this year’s production.
“For me, as an actor, I think it’s really great practice to do a monologue specifically. It’s one thing to act and to have lines with another person and to act and react. But, when you have nothing to react to, it’s a different beast as an actor,” Sherwood said.
The production also features Emily Andrews, Jenny Arndt, Jules Bartley, Jillian Dowling, Catherine Parker, Kristina Ojaperv, Darcie Drake, Cat Skinner and Brie Watson who act alongside Stage Manager Amanda McDonnell and Music Directors Laurel Minnes and Katey Gatta who bookend the performance with music composed by Minnes.
“I knew I wanted to have music in this year’s production, and then I saw a video of Laurel performing with Minuscule and she really inspired me to ask her to bring some music to the play,” said Jones.
One of Jones’ main objectives of directing a play so widely renowned and performed was to find a way to make the production different from their last. While there are a ‘certain amount of director’s notes that you have to follow’, Jones explained that she wanted to scale the production down, and return it to it’s essence: a group of women in a bar with a microphone sharing their stories. Something the venue itself lends it’s hand to.
“I went to the grand opening of Camp Cataract and fell in love with the space and the stage. I knew in that moment that I wanted to do it there. The venue itself has really played a huge part in how I’m going to make it different, as the functions of the space are so intimate,” she said.
“I think in today’s world, The Vagina Monologues is a very relevant piece of theatre, and it’s very topical because the statistics that are happening with women are there. So, no matter which way you spin it – you can criticize the play, which I encourage – but it’s relevant no matter what. That’s the beauty of it. It transforms people’s lives or it entertains people for a night. At the end of the day, it does something pretty awesome.”
The Vagina Monologues will take place at Camp Cataract in Niagara Falls on February 28-29, and all proceeds will be donated to Gillian’s Place in St. Catharines, one of Ontario’s first shelters for abused women and children. Purchase tickets here.