The language of sexuality is often shunned by society but will be spoken openly and fluidly starting tomorrow on Bainbridge Island as Eve Ensler’s “The Vagina Monologues” takes the stage at Bainbridge Performing Arts.
Its return is due to the vision and determination of Island resident Mary Granfors.
“I know that this is an important social piece that needs to be happening,” said Granfors, who is directing the play.
Now in its ninth year, “The Vagina Monologues” is based on interviews with over 200 women about their memories and experiences with sexuality in an effort to shine a light on something that is often pushed into the dark corners — domestic violence against women.
“Some (stories) are poignant, some violent, some hilariously funny and unbelievably sad,” said Diane Bankart, Assistant Director.
Ten percent of the show’s proceeds will benefit the V-Day International 2007 Spotlight “Women in Conflict Zones,” a global movement to combat violence against women and girls, while the remaining whopping 90 will benefit Bainbridge Island’s YMCA A.L.I.V.E. Domestic Violence Program.
Granfors said she chose the local organization because many people don’t know that there is a domestic violence program on Bainbridge Island and she wanted to raise awareness that “violence isn’t just ‘out there,’ it’s close to home. There are things happening in affluent areas.”
Granfors’ vision to become a part of “The Vagina Monologues” began several years ago when she watched Ensler perform it in San Francisco.
“I sat in my chair and cried … and made a secret vow that if I ever had the chance to be a part of this, I would to it,” she said.
Fast forward to 2004: Granfors hears people talking about performing the monologues on Bainbridge Island.
“So I just jumped right on board,” she said, and soon was the assistant director. The following year she was an actor in the production. And the next year … nothing. Neither of the island’s two big theatrical groups decided to stage the show. So when 2007 rolled around, Granfors made up her mind to do it herself.
“If anybody can do it, why not me?” she asked.
And she’s hardly alone. Alongside her stand Bankart and the 23 amazing women who form the cast of actors. They vary in age from 15 to 65 years old and include high school students, a librarian, a museum curator, and a stay-at-home-mom among other things.
Bankart called them,” vibrant … and special to bringing the show to life.”
Diana Liljelund is one such woman and she decided to tryout for the show because she believes in its purpose.
“It’s a really good cause,” she said, “and it’s challenging subject matter to both audience and participant. But these are facts of life and (‘The Vagina Monologues’) puts these subjects out there and gives people an opportunity to start talking about them.”
“They’re real voices. They’re not fictitious,” Erica Varga said of the stories her and fellow participants relate on stage. Varga went on to point out a common misconception audiences have about the show and its actresses and the note cards they carry on stage.
“Some people think we have note cards because we didn’t remember our lines… (But) they’re to remind us that it’s someone else’s voice, that we’re just a catalyst.”
Varga, who was also an actor in the 2004 show, said she is doing it again because, “It’s been one the most amazing things I have ever done. It was the coolest experience meeting these other women and I admire them so much.”
It was a sentiment echoed by many of the women — the sense of community and connection.
“The fact that we’re doing this as a group instead of a one-woman show, there’s been a lot of laughter and there’s nothing more empowering than laughter,” said Tracy Dickerson, sponsorship chair and actor in the production.
Dickerson, whose passion for theatre and social action have been with her all her life, said, “To be able to put the two of them together is my idea of heaven.”
Granfors is captivated by the layers of healing and community that take place during “The Vagina Monologues” between those interviewed, the actors and the audience.
“The whole dream to imagine the world without violence,” she said.
Tickets for the Friday and Saturday shows are sold out, but there is a special pay-what-you-can preview performance at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 22. The box office opens at 6:30 p.m. and there is sure to be a line so come early. Also at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 20, Granfors has decided to open the doors to a dress rehearsal for anyone who wants to attend.
“There will be a bucket outside the door for whatever you can pitch in,” said Granfors.
The Bainbridge Playhouse is located at 200 Madison Avenue North on Bainbridge Island. For more information or directions, call the BPA at (206) 842-8569.