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Comtex Newswire: "Feminist Movement Finds Voice with 'Vagina'"


By Tai Shadrick

TOWSON, Md., Mar 28, 2001 (The Towerlight, U-WIRE via COMTEX) -- When Towson University senior theater major Genevieve Grant decided to direct "The Vagina Monologues" this spring, she knew it would gain widespread attention.

"When you say the word 'vagina' people pay attention whether they want to or not," Grant said. "It's like a car crash."

"The Vagina Monologues," written by Eve Ensler, is a compilation of dialogues from over 200 interviews with real women of all races, ages and backgrounds. Ensler wrote "The Vagina Monologues" because she felt it was impossible to talk about women without talking about their vaginas.

"Ensler noticed that there are names that we don't say very well, like vagina, and that's attached to how we feel about them," said Grant.

For students who are not familiar with the production, the idea of creating a play about vaginas may seem far-fetched and ridiculous, if not simply controversial.

"We're on the stage talking about vaginas, hoping that the people in the audience will want to talk about vaginas," said senior theatre major Anna Marie Sell. "The point of the show is to engage dialogue. If it's not such a secret subject then it's a lot harder for it to be misused."

With derogatory words for vagina appearing in everyday language, Sell believes it's important to educate both men and women about the importance of being able to talk freely and honestly about women's sexuality.

"It's not a bad thing that women have vaginas," said Sell. "It's not any better that women have vaginas than men have penises, but we don't talk about women's body parts as often."

Although "The Vagina Monologues" has won critical appraise and featured some of Hollywood's most talented stars including Calista Flockhart, Susan Sarandon and Rosie Perez, Grant is aware that many people may still rather
ignore the word "vagina" than embrace it.

"It's like your leg," Grant said. "What if you didn't know you had a leg? What if you didn't know what to do with it? What if you were scared by the fact that you had it? How ridiculous is that?"

Featuring such descriptive scenes as "If your vagina could talk, what would it say?" Grant is expecting the controversial play to turn more than a few heads.

"'Frank' is the perfect word to describe the play," Grant said. "But the first step to healing is talking about it."
Grant feels a major component to making "The Vagina Monologues" effective is sheer simplicity.

"One of the key things to this play is to keep it low tech," Grant said. "It's really important when you're doing a show about bringing yourself back to your body that you don't get all involved with the technical fancy stuff."

The play's small cast is also a testimony that "The Vagina Monologues" relies heavily on the unique performances of the individual actresses rather than cluttered ensemble of many elaborately staged productions.

"There are seven women in the cast and they each get one good strong monologue," Grant said. "Part of what I wanted to do was showcase the talent around here. This department has a lot of women, but they don't do a lot of plays that allow women to really show off."

Due to the dramatic and emotional nature of "The Vagina Monologues," however, Grant is confident that the theme of the play will speak for itself. "I don't have to teach anybody anything," Grant said. "People will learn because it's something intimate to be shared. We're not doing a whole bunch of intricate dramatic stuff; we just trust the word when we put it out there."

Although Grant is hopeful that "The Vagina Monologues" will touch many hearts, she is aware that not everyone will agree with the ideas supported by the play. "I'm not trying to convert anyone. I'm just trying to really get people
talking," Grant said. "Even if they don't agree with me I want to get them talking. I love it when people walk out of a theatre arguing with each other."

Whether the audience is celebrating the play's uniqueness or bashing its straightforwardness, Grant hopes people will leave with at least one thing in common.

"I'd love people to walk away with a good sense of being
alive, being excited, and a little bit in awe of what women are and how fabulous they are."

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