The Vagina Monologues Presented By Visalia Players

Sep 19, 2016 | 2016 Articles, Theatre

by Nancy Holley

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The Vagina Monologues has been controversial from the outset. Criticisms have been advanced and retracted. The playwright has been lauded and defamed, but regardless of opposition, the show is recognized as an important piece of drama staged locally and internationally for 20 years.

Opening Off Broadway in 1996, The Vagina Monologues has since been the cornerstone for fund raising projects to end violence against women and girls, promote women’s rights, and expose the isolation that women can feel about their sexuality and feminism.


Left to right-Leianna Petlewski and Debra Hansen performing in VAGINA MONOLOGUES

Perhaps its lingering controversy is precisely the reason for its importance. Has the plight of women and girls improved in the last 20 years? Perhaps, but vestiges of prohibitions still survive. The messages of the monologues “are pertinent and need to be kept in the forefront,” notes Robin Hoffman.

The monologues run the gauntlet of emotions from the wonder of being present at a grandchild’s birth to the devastation of Bosnian rape camps. Debra Hansen was pleased to be asked to perform “I Was There in the Room.” “It begins with the gratitude and honor of being able to witness a child being born. It ends with the joy of being able to hold that child, and the awe that the vagina can do this.”

Women cope with emotional experiences in very personal ways, which might seem strange or even absurd to others, but to the women dealing with the issues, individual logic prevails. The story of Elaine Wood’s monologue is typical in its uniqueness. “The woman thinks her vagina is awful and pretends that it is something she considers pleasant. She becomes an expert at fixating on an inanimate object rather than face the repulsion of her vagina. In the end, she has an awakening and learns to love herself.”

A distressing teenage event can have a lasting effect as depicted by “The Flood” performed by Robin Hoffman. “She’s a New York Jewish woman in her 70s who was traumatized in her teens by a date who berated her for hurting his car. She had dreams that led to nightmares and spent her life as a closed-up virgin.”

Leiana Petlewski is excited that her monologue, “The Happy and The Not so Happy Facts,” allows her to stretch her acting skills. “I’m basically a happy person so that part is OK. Since the story is about a real person, the unhappy part makes me feel vulnerable, but think that it’s important that it be me relating the story.”theatre

Moving the play along and aiding the audience shift between the sometimes clashing emotions of the monologues is the task of the play’s narrators: Debra Hansen, Leiana Petlewski, and Rachel Sievers.

Although The Vagina Monologues is most often directed by a woman, the Visalia Players’ production is directed by Sergio Garza. Garza’s face lights up and his eyes shine when he describes his vision for the show and what he hopes it will bring to the audience. “The show is about women supporting women,” noted Garza, and then he continued, “Hearing their stories will help men understand women in general.”theatre

To men who may see this play as a women’s show, Hansen, an instructor of sexuality at COS, says, “Male points of view are exhibited throughout the show. Men respect and love the women in their lives, and the vagina is at the core of female existence. Don’t be afraid. The issues are presented with humor and sadness. By the end of the show, you will not be embarrassed by hearing or saying the word vagina.”

The Vagina Monologues opens at the Ice House Theatre at Race and Santa Fe in Visalia at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, September 23, 2016, and runs for three weekends with evening performances at 7:30 p.m. on 9/23, 9/24, 9/30, 10/1, 10/7, and 10/8 and matinees at 2:00 p.m. on 9/25, 10/2, and 10/9. NOTE: The play contains adult language and content.

For more information about the Visalia Community Players and to purchase tickets, check out their website and KRL’s article about VCP. Tickets may also be purchased by calling 734-3900. For details about local arts groups in Tulare County, visit the Visalia Arts Consortium website.

Check out even more local theatre reviews & articles in our Arts & Entertainment section!

To purchase two tickets for the price of one, enter KRLTVM in the Have a code? box on the Buy/Redeem Tickets Reservation page via the Players website.

Nancy Holley has been involved in the Visalia Community Players off and on since the 1970s, both as a director and actor. In 2010, she retired from 25 years as a software consultant and has since expanded her role at the Players. She is now Membership Chairman and assists with the Players on-line ticketing system.


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