CHALLENGING TABOOS: L to R: Crystal Amber, Elyse Knowles, Ingrid Foracita, producer Sharon Brodie and Amara Bartlett are sharing stories and championing women’s rights in the Lismore production of The Vagina Monologues.
CHALLENGING TABOOS: L to R: Crystal Amber, Elyse Knowles, Ingrid Foracita, producer Sharon Brodie and Amara Bartlett are sharing stories and championing women’s rights in the Lismore production of The Vagina Monologues.

Lismore’s designer vaginas

Written by American playwright, Eve Ensler, The Vagina Monologues is in its 15th year of production across the globe. Each of the monologues deals with an aspect of the feminine experience, touching on matters such as sex, love, rape, menstruation, female genital mutilation, masturbation, birth, and orgasm.

Sharon, who is a sexual assault worker, said that she has long wanted to put this show on in the Northern Rivers using local actors and crew.

"The show includes actors of all ages, from all walks of life - and we have adapted it to reflect Australian women's stories. We're looking at a number of ways of reinterpreting the stories that are inclusive of all groups that are part of our community. There'll be two deaf interpreters working alongside the actors. We have a young Aboriginal woman doing one story and it's the first time that's been done. One of the monologues lends itself to her part. She has the most challenging role and she's doing fantastically. We have a young bisexual woman, an over 60 year-old woman who's been doing some amazing performances. Everyone's got different experiences and it's been incredible to watch the performances develop."

The six actors have been rehearsing three times a week at the Rochdale Theatre in Goonellabah, calibrating their performances to local cultural conditions.

"It is a big commitment. Because the plays are really powerful, it's quite emotional. You're doing other women's stories and it's tough but a lot of fun. We really want to do justice to the stories and represent the experience of women worldwide."

Eve Ensler has written a new monologue in response to the violence against women that's being perpetrated in Pakistan and India. It specifically refers to two infamous recent incidents in those two countries.

"Women are still being abused and violated in everyday life. That's what The Vagina Monologues is about - raising awareness and challenging ideas in what's acceptable. What's been particularly powerful for me as a sexual assault worker is to work on a project which breaks taboos around sexual assault in an articulate way. It's often seen as not OK to talk about vulnerability and fear. Eve Ensler has done this in a very poetic, poignant and powerful way."

Sharon is adamant that the spirit of the production is not against men. It's bringing to light a subject that is often buried, in a positive uplifting way - and its production has been a vibrant and enlightening experience.

"I've been in amateur theatre all my life but this is my first role as producer. It's really opened my eyes to the theatre in a really powerful way. There's so much involved. Personally it's a dream come true for me to take this amazing story and get it onto the stage for people to experience it. Everyone's got various acting experience but the performances are top notch.

"People who come along, sometimes they're gonna cry. It's a rollercoaster of emotions which Eve Ensler has managed with delicate finesse. By the end of the night we're hoping people will have experienced the same gamut of emotions that we have."

The Vagina Monologues plays at the Star Court Theatre, Lismore, next Thursday, February 14, at 7pm. Tickets are $30 including light refreshments can be ordered at lismoretheatrecompany.org.au/ or collected from the theatre (Phone: 6622 5005).

Profits from the show will go to anti-violence projects and local women and children's services.


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