Monday, February 23, 2009

On stage! -- for a cause

I got back on stage Friday night as a participant in "The Vagina Monologues," a benefit performance for Alternatives to Violence, the local agency that helps women (and men) who are experiencing violence in their lives.

And wow. What a powerful experience. What a fantastic audience. What a GREAT audience!

From our little community, 387 people -- many of them men -- came out to see the show. That's a great response, especially when we weren't at all sure if people would come.

I wrote about the play for the Record Searchlight. I wrote about the accompanying art exhibit. Everyone helped distribute flyers and put up posters.

I got to do "The Woman Who Loved to Make Vaginas Happy," a monologue that includes a very fun section of different styles of moans. So I got up there with fishnet stockings, an all-black brief outfit underneath a leather jacket, and talked about moaning, peeing, and about finding your passion (literally and figuratively). I had a blast.

No, I never thought I'd be up on a stage demonstrating various kinds of orgasmic moans (The clit moan, the WASP moan, the uninhibited militant bisexual moan, the tortured Zen moan, etc.)

But I did. And the audience was right there with me, laughing, cheering, waiting for the next sound out of my mouth.

What a rush!

I've been in a lot of plays over the years, but I've never felt quite the power that I felt Friday night. It was good to be up there again, to be performing. I'd love to do more.

Tony says I transform into someone else when I'm on stage. I suppose all actors do, really, because it is ALL about being in the moment, being right there, fully present. I know several women in our cast experienced for the first time the power of holding an audience. One of them said, "It's like crack! It's addictive! I want more!" (not that I think this woman has actually done crack, mind you...)

It wasn't just for grins and the shock value that I did this, however, nor did any of them. "The Vagina Monologues" is one part of a much larger global focus on ending violence against women and girls, and our performance included a somber look at an unfathomably violent war that has been waged using women in the Democratic Republic of Congo, in Africa.

In our own homes and communities, there are women of all educational levels, all economic levels, all walks of life who are subjected to abuse and violence, from childhood molestation to emotional abuse to murder. Since we have been working on this performance, I have had friends and acquaintances tell me a little about their stories -- surprising and dark secrets from people who seem very together, very strong. Some of them have come through what Elizabeth Lesser calls "The Phoenix Process" to emerge new and better from the ashes of their former lives. Some of them are still burning, still shedding the vestiges of their violent and unhappy lives. I hope they make it.

If you have a chance to see "The Vagina Monologues" or one of the other plays Eve Ensler has written as fundraising vehicles for her Vday organization, please support it. You'll have a good time. But you'll also be helping a sister, a mother, a daughter, a niece.

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