Fri, Mar 10, 2006 - Page 13 News List

Speaking from the heart

The famous feminist play 'The Vagina Monologues' by Eve Ensler gets a Taiwanese treatment this weekend



When US playwright Eve Ensler first staged her award-winning play The Vagina Monologues in New York in 1997, she never thought that it would become a worldwide phenomenon and lead to the establishment of V-Day, an international movement intended to prevent violence against women and promote equality.

Nines years later, the V-Day campaigns enjoy widespread support from women's groups and organizations around the globe.

Last year, Canadian musician Dana Wylie got authorization to stage a benefit production of the play in Taiwan. She co-organized the performances with local women activists and theater talents and this week monologues about women's most intimate thoughts and emotions will take center stage at the Guoguang Hall of Chinese Petroleum Building.

There will be two performances, one in English, the other in Mandarin.

Following interviews conducted with 200 women about their life experiences, Eve Ensler completed the first draft of her script in 1996. Each monologue relates to the vagina and includes the chilling memory of a rape experience, violation, mutilation, masturbation, birth, menstruation and orgasm.

Ensler once said that the reason for her fascination with the vagina lies in her belief that the vagina is a tool of female empowerment.

The play has been a huge success in the US. Celebrities such as Glenn Close, Jane Fonda, Melanie Griffith, Kate Winslet, Whoopi Goldberg and Winona Ryder, have all sought out roles for performances.

Ensler revises the script each year by adding new monologues, so as to address different social issues on sexuality and gender, such as transsexual communities and women in Afghanistan.

This year's spotlighted theme is "Justice for Comfort Women" and aims to raise awareness of war crimes. Funds raised will aid organizations that cope with those women who have survived sexual abuse in wartime. The English and Mandarin productions in Taipei will incorporate the new piece on comfort women survivors so as to give the Taiwanese side of events, regarding the abuse by Japanese soldiers of local women in World War II.

The V-Day Taiwan team consists of volunteer activists and artists. One tenth of the proceeds raised from the event this year will go to the V-Day headquarters in the US, and the rest of the earnings will be donated to Taiwan Women's Link (台灣女人連線), Taipei Women's Rescue Foundation (台北市婦女救援基金會) and ECPAT Taiwan (台灣終止童妓協會).

Betsy Lan (藍貝芝), a feminist activist and theater community veteran at Assignment Theater (差事劇團), was the director of the Mandarin production of the play in Taipei last year. As a producer this year, Lan said the development of the movement has been organic and energetic.

"V-Day headquarters in the US offers clear guidelines in regard how to organize and raise funds, but it also gives enough freedom to local communities and groups in different parts of the world to work out their own structures," Lan said.

When asked about her take on doing a performance in Taiwan using an American text, Lan said, "They [US V-Day] is aware of the fact that the script is essentially an American experience, so it encourages us to add local perspectives while performing so as to make global participation possible."

But to this year's director of the Mandarin performance Lu Hui-mian (陸慧綿) -- who has 12-years of experience in theater and is director of the Door Group (百樂門大戲班劇團) -- there are other differences.

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