Local “Vagina Monologues” coming soon

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“My vagina is angry!”

Several passing college boys snicker, as they peek over their shoulders to see why such an outrageous statement is being screamed from Dewey 132 at 8p.m. on a Friday night.

Their curious glances are met by a room full of laughing women. The chairs in the usually structured classroom are scattered, tables pushed out of the way, a box of Dunkin’ Donuts coffee in the center of the room. Scripts, coffee cups, jackets and purses cover the table tops and spare chairs. An energetic woman in high-heel boots and a high-wasted skirt stands in the center of the room.

“If my vagina could talk it would talk about itself like me, it would talk about other vaginas, it would do vagina impressions.” Hinton grins as she reads from her script. The other ladies chuckle as they glance away from their own scripts awaiting their call to the front of the room.

Vanessa Hinton is one of 12 women who have been cast in this spring’s performance of “The Vagina Monologues” to be performed April 26-27 at the Stowe Town Hall Theater at 7pm. She has been cast with the monologue, “My Angry Vagina,” which is a summation of how one woman is pissed off about “the army of people” who are working against the comfort of her vagina. Discussing everything from tampons to childbirth, it is surely a monologue that all women can relate to.

“The most rewarding part about doing my piece is being able to get up in front of people and bitch about stuff you can’t normally do in public,” Hinton Says. “I mean, I can holler and yell and really get it off my chest. It feels so great.”

Every Friday night, “The Vagina Monologues” cast and the director, Kelli Prescott, gather at Johnson State College to rehearse. Much like the performance the rehearsals are a solid two hours of raw emotion as the cast prepares to deliver a show that is at some points tragic and at other times wildly hilarious.

Prescott has been directing “The Vagina Monologues” here in Lamoille County for six years. Between her day job as the legal services coordinator at the Clarina Howard Nichols Center and a history, she is perfectly suited to flawlessly meld the theater world with social activism. “I’m a former theatre gal so this is a way to combine activism and satiate my creative appetite,” she said.

Prescott notes that there are also challenges when dealing with taboo topics such as abuse or rape. “This issue is not easy to talk about,” she says. “It’s not a popular conversation to have but we must. When one to three women globally are being abused (and/or) raped in their lifetime, we need to start talking about violence against women.”

“The Vagina Monologues” were written by Eve Ensler in 1996 after she conducted hundreds of interviews with women around the world. The show has been nationally recognized and has been performed in many different countries. It was also made into a TV movie in 2002.

The performances at the end of April are a part of a larger movement called V-day, which according to the organization’s website “is a global activist movement to end violence against women and girls.” The National V-day campaign will receive 10% of the benefits with the rest going to the Clarina Howard Nichols Center of Morrisville, VT. You can find more information about the national V-Day organization by going to www.vday.org.

Amber Gillespie, one of the actresses in this year’s performance, decided to participate in the monologues to support the Clarina Howard Nichols Center and to help increase awareness of the prevalence of violence against women. “It is important that people know what is happening to women across the globe so that once educated on the subject, they can take action to prevent these horrors from being perpetuated,” she said.

Every couple of years the monologues are adapted to include a new subject or character. This year there will be two new monologues added, one of which is titled “Over It,” to be performed by Colleen Twomey, and the other is titled “Rising,” to be performed by Leanne Gibson. Both are a declaration of disdain for the rape culture that many societies around the world choose to ignore. It discusses current events such as the gang rape that was reported on a public bus in New Delhi to the group of football players that videotaped themselves raping a sixteen year old girl in Steubenville, Ohio.

Gillespie goes on to say, “It is through hearing these personal stories and by showing support for the Clarina Howard Nichols Center that people are made aware of the potential violence in their own communities and realize they have the power to help.” This is Gillespie’s second year performing in the monologues.

By the time the rehearsal is over it is hard to find an actress who does not have bloodshot eyes and a damp tissue in her hand. Although some tears may have been caused by priceless comedic moments throughout the rehearsal, most are from the tragic, true stories that are told week after week. They are stories of women growing old while finding their “down there” disgusting and unwanted, or of Bosnian refugees experiencing rape as a tactic of war.

The classroom is filled with conversations, discussions, current events, emotions. Some of the cast scurry away to get home to their children or to prepare for their commute to Hardwick or Burlington. Others do not move, savoring their uninhibited, weekly opportunity to simply talk with other women.

In years past the monologues have been performed at Johnson State College, but the performance has outgrown the space. Many Johnson State College students have performed in the show in years past along with many community members. This year the cast consists of Vanessa Hinton, Amber Gillespie, Colleen Twomey, Leanne Gibson, Krista Bologna, Ester Nkuli, Sarah Venooker, Beth Mullen, Billi Dunham, Francine Valcour, Leslie Black, Brigitte Derel and Liz Beatty-Owens.

To reserve tickets for The Vagina Monologues on April 26 and 27 call 802-888-2584, tickets are $10 for students, $20 for adults.

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