What do Winona Ryder, Rhea Perlman, Ricki Lake, Marisa Tomei, Camryn Manheim, Julianna Margulies, Linda Lavin, Lara Flynn Boyle, Hazelle Goodman, Elizabeth Franz, Kristen Johnston, and Patti LuPone all have in common? They're all performers. They're all women. They've all got vaginas. And they're all ready, willing, and able to step up to the microphone and talk vaginas in support of a good cause.
Eve Ensler's phenomenally successful show The Vagina Monologues has changed the way women think, feel, and talk about their vaginas--and now it's changing women's lives in a different way: $10 of every full-priced ticket sold for performances featuring trios of women is being donated directly to the V-Day Fund, created to support groups working to end violence against women.
When playwright/performer Ensler completed her sold-out run at the Westside Theatre at the end of January, the solo show--which features monologues with titles such as "If your vagina got dressed what would it wear" and "The women who loved to make vagina's happy"--was turned into a trio, with each group of three scheduled to appear for two-week engagements. The cast of women who have joined the performer list since then is fabulous and various: no matter the week, expect ecstatic results.
Julie Kavner, Swoosie Kurtz, and Audra McDonald were the first three to take the stage, beginning on February 8. The current cast, performing through March 5, features Mary Alice, Amy Irving, and Rosie Perez. Next up are Rita Moreno, Cynthia Nixon, and Marlo Thomas (March 7-19), followed by Shirley Knight, Andrea Martin, and Alanis Morrisette (March 21-April 2). For a schedule update, click here.
According to press agent Bob Fennell, the show expects to raise over $1 million for V-Day. "That's part of the reason that some of them are anxious to do the show," Fennell says, "because it's raising money for a very good cause." The specific groups to receive the money have not yet been determined. "V-Day is a fund that will disperse it to local, national, and international organizations," says Fennell, all of which are aimed at ending violence against women.
And this isn't the first time the text of The Vagina Monologues and a star-studded cast has been teamed up to raise money. There have previously been two very successful single benefit performances entitled V-Day (last year in London and the year before in New York), in which Ensler was joined by stars including Glenn Close, Cate Blanchett, Susan Sarandon, Whoopi Goldberg, Lily Tomlin, Kate Winslett, Melanie Griffith, and Calista Flockhart.
The lists go on...with the response of women performers indicating, perhaps, not only their willingness to support a good cause, but also to support the initial impetus for the show: to get women thinking and talking about vaginas. "I decided to talk to women about their vaginas, to do vagina interviews, which became vagina monologues," writes Ensler. "I talked with hundreds of women. I talked to old women, young women, married women, single women, lesbians, college professors, actors, corporate professionals, sex workers, African American women, Hispanic women, Asian American women, Native American women, Caucasian women, Jewish women."
And all kinds of audience members--with vaginas and without--have come to hear what the women had to say. The show was originally produced by HOME for Contemporary Theatre and Art at the performance space HERE, for which it won an Obie Award in 1997. It has since then toured the country, as well as internationally, with performances in Jerusalem, Berlin, Athens, and Zagreb. It had a hit run in London, and its current home in New York is the Westside Theater on 43rd Street. Ensler's book, also entitled The Vagina Monologues, is a best seller.
"At first, women were reluctant to talk. They were a little shy," writes Ensler. (Shy? Rosie Perez? Alanis?) "But once they got going, you couldn't stop them." Stop them? No way. Let the list of monologuers grow and grow and grow...and the V-Day Fund along with it.