NEW! MGAC stages a benefit for “Vagina Monologues”

By - Feb 9th, 2011 07:05 pm
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The Milwaukee Gay Arts Center first staged Eve Ensler’s The Vagina Monologues in 2008. The show has become an annual traditional at MGAC. The new 2011 production runs at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 11-13.

First performed Off Broadway in 1998, The Vagina Monologues has become an international clarion for women’s empowerment. It has also become a funding source for efforts against violence, specifically violence against women. The project has raised over $75 million for this cause throughout the world.  The Milwaukee Gay Arts Center’s production proceeds will benefit Sojourner Family Peace Center and the International V-Day Campaign. (Click here for information about the related V-Day Campaign.)

Logically enough, the monologues all focus on the vagina. They traverse the touchy terrain from the sublimely funny “The Woman Who Loved to Make Vaginas Happy” to the seditious “Reclaiming Cunt.” For the most part, Ensler’s episodes delve into the subject with a certain sense of humor. But they also confront. The Vagina Monologues speak rarely spoken truths.

Traditionally, Vagina Monologues is performed as a simple reading or reciting of Ensler’s monologues. MGAC’s versions have relied more on acting as a means. Each year, a new actor and director have brought out different nuances of the show.

Casey Harding, a Marquette University theatre arts graduate, is directing the 2011 production. Her background includes a stint at  Renaissance Theatreworks, where she participated in a young directors program. She is an education assistant with the Florentine Opera.

The 2011 cast comprises 12 performers from 19 to 50 and a broad spectrum of ethnicities (African-American, Asian and South Asian, Caucasian and Hispanic).Sexual identity, too, is mixed.

“Whether lesbian, straight or transgender, or Pakistani, American or of any hue, each individual actor puts a universal reality into each monologue,” Harding said. “At the same time, the reality is very personal. This staging creates an ensemble feel that delivers Ensler’s message in an accessible way. The cast represents a community that addresses the issue through mutual support,” Harding said.

Cast member Valery Meyer has performed in all MGAC’s Vagina Monologues productions. She does the transgender monologue, “They Beat the Boy out of my Girl.”  Meyer reflects on  her inspiration: “I feel I need to make my appearances because I’ve been the only trans-women in the shows. It seemed to me that a trans-woman had to be there as a responsible member of the community. Failing to do that would have left a gap in the show, not because other women could not perform the part as well, but [because] it takes someone who has lived the life of the monologues, especially the trans piece, to  properly communicate the meaning,” Meyer said.

Jennifer Morales is a partnered lesbian mom and grandmother. She is currently finishing her MFA in Creative Writing at Antioch University – Los Angeles and working as a freelance writer, editor, and grant writer. She also relates to her monologue, “I was there in the Room.” Morales explained, “years ago I was a doula (a birth assistant) and was studying midwifery, so the piece that I’m performing in the show really struck a chord with me.”

A party, with refreshments and fund-raising raffle, at Walker’s Pint will follow the opening night show. Tickets are $15, $10 for seniors and students, at the Milwaukee Gay Arts Center, 703 South 2nd Street, in Milwaukee’s Historic Walker’s Point. Call 414 383-3727.

Paul Masterson is the executive director of MGAC.

Categories: Theater

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