Detroit does V-Day right with performances of 'The Vagina Monologues'

Feb 11, 2015 at 11:05 am
click to enlarge A previous production of the The Vagina Monologues, put on my Shawn P. Entertainment in Detroit. - Courtesy of Shawn Williams
Courtesy of Shawn Williams
A previous production of the The Vagina Monologues, put on my Shawn P. Entertainment in Detroit.

When most people hear the term “V-Day,” they might think about romance — chocolates, flowers, mood lighting, feelings, you know the drill. (Or, alternately, they might think about a quiet evening spent at home with House of Cards on the Netflix queue and a Vanilla Java Porter in hand. Just conjecturing.)

But for many in metro Detroit and around the world, V-Day means something else entirely. Each year around this time, activists band together to fight violence against women — hosting workshops, launching fundraising campaigns, and — most popularly — organizing productions of the iconic play the The Vagina Monologues.

First performed in 1996, the play shares the true stories of women, first gathered in interviews by feminist playwright Eve Ensler. Each monologue sheds light on a different issue related to sexuality, gender identity, and, of course, vaginas. The subjects are diverse, ranging from the ever-confounding topic of pubic hair maintenance to one woman’s harrowing story of wartime rape. Those who attend productions frequently describe the experience as emotional, enlightening, and — above all — empowering.

And it’s not just for the women in the audience. Though the play articulates the stories of women, the performances are for everybody. Shawn Williams, who annually helms a Detroit-based production of Monologues, underscored this point. “I have guys come to the play every year and they enjoy it,” he says. “They say it is very powerful, every year.”

In addition to the education and awareness brought by the play itself, proceeds benefit organizations that work to end gendered violence locally and globally. Several Detroit productions of Monologues have opted to give to charities that fight violence against women in the metropolitan area. Williams’ production, for example, will benefit the Southfield-based nonprofit SADA’s House, which supports victims of domestic violence through the difficult process of leaving a violent partner. The University of Michigan-Dearborn’s 2015 performance will benefit Alternatives for Girls, which aims to empower at-risk girls, and Wayne County SAFE, which provides medical-forensic care to Wayne County survivors of sexual assault.

Indeed, in a city with over 10,000 untested rape kits, and in a state whose legislature infamously has a problem with the word “vagina,” Monologues’ message is particularly critical.

Andrea Chavez, student co-director of Monologues at University of Michigan-Dearborn, agrees. “These monologues are there to show that women should have the courage to stand up and fight for their rights,” she says. “With the city making tremendous changes, women's rights should also be one.”

Shannon Snideman, another student co-director of University of Michigan-Dearborn’s production of Monologues, sees the play as a perfect Valentine’s month activity. “Although the show primarily focuses on women's rights and issues that impact women, there is still an element that resides in us all: the power of love,” she says. “The Vagina Monologues are being performed around Valentine's Day for a reason, and that is to remind us that we all need to love and respect one another.”

Local performances of The Vagina Monologues:

The Vagina Monologues @ University of Michigan-Dearborn
6:30 p.m., Feb. 12 & 13
1500 Social Sciences Building
Benefits Alternatives for Girls and Wayne County SAFE

The Vagina Monologues @ Eastern Michigan University
8 p.m., Feb. 12-14
Student Center Auditorium
Benefits First Step, SafeHouse Center, and V-Day

The Vagina Monologues @ International Institute of Metropolitan Detroit
4 p.m., March 15 & 22
Benefits SADA’s House

The Vagina Monologues @ Oakland University
7 p.m. on March 20 & 21
201 Dodge Hall
Benefits HAVEN and Turning Point Inc.

The Vagina Monologues @ University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
7:30 p.m. on March 26, 2015
March 27, 2015 (Time TBA)
Rackham Auditorium, Trotter Multicultural Center
Benefits SafeHouse Center and V-Day

Lauren Madison is an intern for Metro Times.