Naturally my first question after meeting the co-producers' of The "Vagina Monologues" — to be performed at the end of the month in Hastings — was: "So who's playing the moaner?"
A compendium of vignettes written by Even Ensler in 1996, "The Vagina Monologues" has become a common production on college campuses throughout the country—but for a group of women, most with children, to perform the show...here in the suburbs—
Now that's groundbreaking!
"I'm not nervous at all; I'm proud to take part," said Dobbs Ferry resident Sarah Chianese, the lucky woman cast as 'the moaner.'
"I'm very pro-moaning. I practiced today at a rehearsal with the director and in the car—so as to not disturb the neighbors. The effort behind Eve Ensler's work is so incredibly valuable and raises awareness against violence or abuse against women and girls."
Co-producers Tracy Brown, a Sleepy Hollow resident, and Elyssa Feldman Most, who lives in Tarrytown, were inspired by recent attacks against women both in this country and abroad; they wanted to take action—shake things up a little here in Westchester to remind everyone that the fight for women's rights didn't end in 1970 and currently extends past Afghanistan and Iran.
"Politically, I feel that there's a new urgency to protect women's rights—I can't even remember the last time I had to even think about whether birth control would be covered by insurance," Feldman Most said. "We believe these rights need to be reasserted."
Originally, the cast of Feldman Most and Brown's "small" amateur production of "The Vagina Monologues" was no more than an intimate group of friends who wanted to challenge themselves by staging the still somewhat shocking and subversive production.
But with a little help from social media, the group grew into a cast of 25 women—most of whom have kids, many have jobs...and few have acting experience beyond high school.
"I think I'll be somewhat nervous, but I feel good about it," Feldman-Most, an event planner, said. Her monologue is spoken from the voice of a transgendered woman who was born male and knew all along that something just wasn't right.
"This is a really powerful, dramatic piece," she said. "Though the specific content of the monologue is foreign to me, there is a lot that resonates."
Brown (shown in the clip above) will be reading the introduction, which is a bit lighter in tone.
Director Gina Lamparella—a Sleepy Hollow resident—who recently directed the same show in Florence, Italy, cast the local production and has been overseeing rehearsals multiple nights per week.
"One of the rules of this show is that everyone who auditions has to be included," Brown said. "We were so fortunate to find Gina to put the production together."
The show will be a fundraiser both for V-Day, an organization started by Ensler to end violence against women, and Hope's Door, a women's shelter in Pleasantville. (Ten percent of the ticket proceeds will go to V-Day and 90 percent to Hope's Door.)
Women performing hail from: Cortlandt Manor, Tarrytown, Ardsley, Briarcliff, Sleepy Hollow, Irvington, Dobbs Ferry, Hastings, and Poughkeepsie.
For those with kids—especially younger ones—explaining the subject matter was a little touchy.
"My son is 8 years old—and he loves theater—so he would love to see his mom perform," Feldman Most said. "I told him what it was about and that it's for adults. Needless to say, he won't be there—but he still thinks it's cool."
Brown's son is also 8.
"He was interested, but I was vague on the details," she said. "He's disappointed that he can't see it, but I think he understands."
For Chianese, whose kids are older, the situation is somewhat different.
"I have two teenagers: a daughter who's 18, and son, who is nearly 17," she said. "My daughter thought she'd be concerned (embarrassed?) about her mom doing this monologue, but we talked about it and she knows it's a character. Honestly, she'd rather do the monologue herself, but she's working an event on her college campus the evening of the performance. My son...he doesn't even know yet...hmmm...We'll see."
Regardless of what their kids think about their moms saying the word "Vagina"—
Proudly. On stage. Multiple times in one evening—
Both Brown and Feldman Most are extremely passionate about the production and the sentiment behind it.
"Some of the women in the show have been victims of violence themselves," Feldman Most said.
Brown added: "Statistically speaking, one in four women have been victims of violence, so that means if you think about it mathematically, between 6 and 8 members of our 25-woman cast have probably been victimized at some point. This is both a local issue and a global issue."
Briarcliff resident Elsa Arce, the bilingual counselor at Hope's Door, will also participate in the show.
"I hear every day horror stories of abuse and I wanted to be part of the voice of reason," she said.
Chianese bravely admitted feeling a personal connection to the play.
"I have been there, and I was thankful someone was there for me and my children when I needed help," she said. "I will do anything—yes, even moan generously on stage—towards this effort and encourage people to live without fear of humiliation in order to save others from having to feel that pain and humiliation. Each person counts...one moan at a time."
This production of "The Vagina Monologues" will be held one night only, April 28 at in Hastings. There will 150 tickets available. Check out their facebook page for tickets, photos and updates on the show.
See a short clip of the introduction in the media section above.