Updated: Mar 1
Each year since 1998, author Eve Ensler has donated the rights to produce her 1996 Obie Award-winning play "The Vagina Monologues" as part of a V-Day Campaign, a worldwide movement to stop violence against women. In the fall of 2001 I was on the board of Irvine House, a local women's shelter, and acquired the rights for Creston, in order to produce a fundraiser for the shelter. (This was all part of a decision I'd made earlier that year to "do more things".)
The play was presented on March 2, 2002, to a sold-out crowd. We raised $12,000.
Twenty years ago. Here's what I remember:
Clearly, we were going to need some money to start. We'd need to rent the theatre, advertise, print programs............... My husband Dan agreed to approach a wealthy friend of his, a woman who was involved in and supported the arts. She agreed to give us a donation; then she changed her mind after a friend of hers told her that the play was pornographic. Dan offered to read The Monologues to her so she could decide for herself. She agreed, and afterwards gave us $2000.
With money in the bank, I was off to Imagine Ink (a local graphic design/print shop). I explained to the owner, Brandy, what we were doing, and asked if she'd design a poster for us and how much it would cost. She paused and said "Why don't I just donate it?". I replied "Great! Do you want to be in it?" She said yes, and we had our first cast member. (This was all before Facebook, and my memory is foggy so I can't recall every cast member.)
This is the poster Brandy designed. Specifically, this is the poster Brandy designed, signed by all the cast. It was a surprise gift, presented the night of the play.....but I'm getting ahead of myself.
I tapped my friend Jan to direct, then asked Bonnie to do publicity, and my sister Jeanette to do everything else behind the scenes, and they agreed.
It was an encouraging sign when the mayor, Lela Irvine (for whom the women's shelter was named) agreed to take part.
The photo at left shows Lela speaking at the after-party.
We held rehearsals once a week. The youngest cast member, who was to perform the monologue "My Short Skirt", didn't bother to show up to rehearse. Ever. I fired her over the phone, because that was the only way to contact her. With about a week to go before the performance we replaced her with another young woman, Bryony, who nailed the part.
Along with the preparing for the performance, we organized yoga sessions for the cast and an art show to run in conjunction with the play.
And we had t-shirts printed!
And we made and raffled a quilt!
We sold 2 tiers of tickets; $20 got you a ticket to the performance, $40 let you choose your seat and attend the after-party downtown. Either way, there was a surprise gift bag (hand-sewn of course) full of goodies waiting at each seat. Below is Donna, placing bags on the seats.
I wish I had a picture of the stage. When the curtain opened, the audience gasped.
Instead of just me, imagine a line of women spanning the stage, each dressed all in black and wrapped in a red feather boa.
The boas were just one of the treats we had for the cast. Which leads me to my favorite memory from this adventure....
....the young border service agent's face when he asked, as I was returning to Canada from the US, if I had anything to declare. "Yes, 14 chocolate vaginas." A pause...a fleeting excited/bewildered expression....then as he left the booth to approach the car..."Oh, I've got to see".
A few years later, I was walking to work when I merged with a woman who I didn't really know. We chatted a bit, because it's a small town and back then we were all harmless. She said "You know, I believe that Creston started to change for the better after The Vagina Monologues".
That's right up there with Chocolate Vaginas for best memory.