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Vagina speaking By Solomon Natali
Vagina keeps monologuing around the world.On April 23rd and 24th Hanoi has become a V- friendly city.Unexpectedly. For all these yet uninformed on the topic, Eve Ensler s Vagina Monologues if a temptative fruit,made of interviews she conducted with 200 women from all around the world about their views on sex,relationships and violence against women.Each monologue of her play in some way or other relates to the vagina,be it through love,sex ,rape,birth,the variety of epithets for the vagina,or as a physical aspect of the body.The Monologues were first played at HERE Arts Centre in New York in October 1996.Ensler originally read every monologue herself ,with subsequent performances with three actresses participating ,then more recent versions appeared with a different actress for every role.Shortly after the play has gained a great popularity with numerous plays staged throughout the United States from the triumph performance at Madison Square Garden in 2001 to plays set up on universities n colleges stages by inspired amaturer-actresses.A staggering number of movie divas as Glenn Close ,Whoopi Glodberg ,Jane Fonda and Maryl Streep have chosen to take part in Monologues realisations in New York ,Los Angeles and London.The play has subsequently been translated in to over 45 languages and staged in over 120 countries. The Monologues has become the source of inspiration of V-Day ,a global movement and organized response-manifestation against violence towards women and girls .This annual event takes place around Valentine’s Day with benefits raised by The Vagina Monologues plays to be given to groups seeking to end rape and fight abuses against women. Despite broad critics ,ambiguous public reaction and even accusations in pro-sex feminism of a number of people The Monologues stays excellent and invulnerable in their essence and concept of women individuality expression,raising awareness ,consciousness and money for women s anti-violence groups,strenghtening existing anti-violence efforts, putting the topic of abuses against women in the public eye. Once I ve got to know The Monologues are to be played in Hanoi,I took off from Dalat for the capital immediately to arrive right at Premiere ,chased by anxiety the Event would be cancelled by prudent and conservative local authorities.But it happily has not been cancelled.Either these last have overlooked what kind of performance the capital s old quarter was up to or they understood its main idea and its goals just right. The only thing I m certain of is that the good old Old Quarter of Hanoi has never heard n witnessed such candid stories during all its 1000 history as she has during the play. I have the personal feelings towards The Monologues so when The Editorial Board offered me to write a story on a subject I was perfectly willing to.I still remember vividly what a furor a play has caused on sensitive conservative public in Russia in 2007.I remember me brushing through the book stores in the search of Ensler’s book.The bulging eyes n pale faces of book sellers at shops after hearing its title pronounced are still at my eyes .In fact , I had to write the title on the peace of paper in the end in order not to provoke a heart –attack with too impressionable book
sellers. I had finally found a book but couldn’t watch a play because St–Petersburgh , a russian V –friendly city , laid 9000 km from me. So Monologues being played in Hanoi was my chance. The window of the room in a hotel I booked happened subsequently to be just above the stage of the Green Mango restaurant,where the event took place.I was n t that much surprised by the amazing coincidence .As the fact that Vietnam is a country of small miracles and great amazements is what I understood long ago.It was probably next on the schedule omen of virtuos destiny. The piquant details on the play with fantastic V-costumes , moans of female sensual excitement in their dozen versions, loud scanding of one of the names of female physical aspect, shocking stories,smacked and massaged tirelessly in western massmedia made to expect everything ,but definitely not what the attending audience has really got at the play –the hilariously witty and profoundly touching collection of brave ,sincere and thoroughly human stories. The play was opened with a “Fan”,poem of legendary vietnamese poetess Ho Xuan Huong ,who had become preoccupied with the question of women sensuality n Vproblems long ago ,200 hundred years before Eve Ensler did .Her poetry rich in double meanings, brilliant metaphores inciting strong sensual associations strikes by the finess and virtuos balance between the erotism and the vulgarism .She brought to life the battles of the sexes and the power of the female body against male authority ,human weaknesses and desires,and bravely discussed different sides of social life in Vietnam of 17-18 centuries,including sexual freedom .Her name is still pronounced with embarassement by the majority of vietnamese.I could experience the power of public opinion on her poetry personally when doing the Masters degree at Hanoi University , after inspired essay-analysis of one of her poems I v got a “meritirous” 4 of 10 from my vietnamese teacher. The “Fan ” was read by a vietnamese actress both in vietnamese and english and was the only part of the play that was read in vietnamese. The “Fan” , brilliant n beautiful abstractly,sounded a little bit disappointing n out-of- concept of the play.The person who chose it either had a very superficial notion of Ho Xuan Huong poetry or chose the shortest poem in order not to get in trouble with translation into english or just took the poem from the first page of some books of Ho Xuan Huong s poetry. The first monologue on the problem of hair was read by vietnamese actress in english.It was read just as if some obedient schoolgirl could answer her home-work at the class room desk. No doubt ,she would have got 10 from 10 from her vietnamese teacher. And I v got a light doubt whether she has got a clear understanding of what she was representing. I yet have had strong doubt before the play started on the notion of vietnamese people presented at the Event after having heard vietnamese lady-barmen-owner of the restaurant express her great joy n amazement on the restaurant to be full as never, but not a single commentary on the Monologues to be played. May be I m wrong though,and she had plenty of commentaries but kept them to herself. Any way it was vietnamese actress performing at the first act of The V-Monologues .That was already an outbreak .I admire and applaud for her brave. Then the amazing fireworks ve started all of a sudden : Stunning Trish Thompson playing the woman in flood was so impressive that I had a great wish to stand together ,shoulder –to –shoulder with Frank Sinatra from her dreams in this flood,or move him aside from the flood or let him be captured by some rapid
stream and taken somewhere far from the flood epicentre to become the only gentlemen to rescue the monologuing lady from the calamity. Adrienne Reilly was just grandious with her act of V-rebel against the tools used by OB/GYN,tampons ,douches and other injustices towards vagina. The Great Geographical V-discoveries of her own body ,made by a woman at some progressive workshop ,the monologue performed by Ruth Mortimer , was amazing and touching almost till tears,caused by the humorous situation and extreme sincerity. The deep sensual voice of resolute and self-collected Muna Khan ,East n West mag editor , playing the Narrator ,contributed considerably at the mesmerizing atmosphere created on the stage during the play, electrifying the air in the back yard improvised concert hall. Muna has taken over the responsible mission of sticking the large scarlet letters : C/U/N ,then T on the column of the stage as well while Samantha Caddey pronounced a sequent monologue,illustrating and proclaiming a meaningful combination of the letters above with enviable passion and devotion. By the way, a harmonious unit of the letters meant above came from Indo-European civilization ,derived from the “counti” the name the indians used when adressing their prays to the Mother Godess Kali.This word coincides with english “kin” and ‘country’in its base. Moans of sensual excitement interpreted by Marianne in a good dozen of versions, divided thoroughly according to their source’s nationality,mood n temper,were very persuading and realistic. But it was not them that provoked a shock with the audience. Neither the VAGINA ,having been named by its proper name and pronounced minimum 30 times during the play did.As it has the same right to be pronounced and spoken out loud as the “heart” or any other part of a body do. It was a Monologue “Under the Burqua ” about the plight of women in Afganistan under taliban rule.It was the abstracts telling about the drastic procedure of female genital mutilation (FMG) in Africa,an atrocity that still keeps turning thousands of women (who managed not to die of haemorrhage or blood poisoning but to survive after )in to handicapped forever. A woman watching the birth of her granddaughter from “I was there in the room”as a final act of the play,virtuosly portrayed by Helen Gordon,was a pure revelation telling about the mystery of the birth of life, the beginning of all beginnings ,the truth revealed through a woman to the world .I suddenly felt myself attending some captivating lesson of Chinese calligraphy while its characters drawn on the desk , bright new n amazing for the brain has made its hemispheres that stayed in sound sleep undisturbed before , got switched on , working intensely on the new knowledge ,towards new direction and new philosophy,new logic n motivation.The V-philosophy. My general impression of the Monologues was exactly the one that could be given by an amazing play performed by the group of fabulously talented women ,that seemed to come on Hanoi stage right from London or Broadway theatre .They didn t in fact.Almost all of the actresses have never performed on a stage before . According to Christine Andrews who was not only the inspirer , organizator and dirigeur of this multifaceted symphony –play ,but also the the brave one who dared to read the most emotional strength-demanding monologue “Under the Burqua” , the cast started rehearsing about 2 - 2/12 months before the Premiere,with a scheduleonce a week until the final week.. In addition, some of the participating actresses
were based in other cities so the performing group only had their first ever full cast rehearsal in their dress rehearsal 3 days before the Premiere. Well,the result stands above all possible expectations ,one could have regarding the professional actresses, yet further regarding amaturer actresses. In a word ,it was all fireworks and some kind of fascinating ceremony of breaking the old glasses with scratched lenses that barely gave a chance to see the elegant ,the touching, the stunning behind the “down-there” seen before. After all ,it has undoubtedly succeded as a perfect chance for female audience to discover a joy of being a woman and a happy human being.Not only was it a spiritual success but the practical and material as well .As all the means gathered from two V-shows held in Hanoi were donated to anti-violence organizations:45% of them were given to TuNa Clinic ,that “provides menthal health care ,organic food and poverty reduction”.In this project ,after intensive care at the TuNa clinic,clients are given employment at TuNa Organic Farm in Yen The,Bac Giang province,in the Northern Vietnam.The philosophy of this organization is to combine physical and psychological therapy in a new environment and provide its patients with an employment and an income for their needs; other 45% went to The An Giang Dong Thap Alliance for the Prevention of Trafficking (ADAPT), an organization operating at the border of Vietnam and Cambodia.The last 10% has been transferred to a global campaign ,initiated and patronized by V –Day and UNICEF-Stop raping our Greatest Resource:Power to Women in the Democratic Republic of Congo. What kind of impression the Monologues played, has produced on other male visitors stayed a pure enigma for me .They were really sparse at the Premiere.Three of four exemplars I noticed ,told me they r not ready for the commentaries.The fourth asked me directly if I were mad to ask such things. On the second day of the play being performed man visitors were more numerous .But surprisingly the big majority happened to be in their late fifties –early sixties. Well, that s probably the respectful age when male basic instinct starts to give place and space for philosophical reflexion n research spirit. Better late than never. The vietnamese audience was limited to 15 or somewhat, probably because of a lack of advertising and information on the event in vietnamese. Vietnamese visitors, all as one, told me they are not ready to express their opinion and the play put them in deep reflections on the topic But if the play has not only reached the ears and eyes, but also really put them in reflexion as they say ,there is a real possibility at least the one from those 15 , will be inspired to create her own Monologues to encourage Vietnamese women to carry their V-flag proudly. For these many hanoians who have n t attended the event,I precise kindly that the title of the play was Cuoc doc thoai cua am dao(as I ve n t seen any translation of the title).Its contents was yet more interesting n captivating .You ve missed the event,guys.The only option is to go to book-fairs in a search of Ensler’s book in vietnamese.If there is any.If not it would surely appear soon.Don’t forget to write a title on a piece of paper. Thank you for the gorgeous cast ,having played The Monologues in Hanoi for an unforgettable confirmation in to V-man.For the amazing lection on geometry of the sincerity, the candour, the feeling and the love, overwhelming in their beauty .May Vagina keeps monologuing throughout the world n may it be heard.
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