On Saturday at 7:30 p.m., the Foothills Theatre will stage a production of Eve Ensler’s “The Vagina Monologues” as part of the art in the garden series at Foothills Arts Council. This is the second time the group has staged the show, and the previous cast will be returning for the production.
“We first did ‘The Vagina Monologues’ in the fall of 2013 and honestly, I thought we’d have 10 people in the audience,” explained arts council Director Leighanne Martin Wright. “We had about 50; it was wonderfully received and I believe the audience appreciated that we would tackle a piece as this on a social commentary level. We have the same cast as before, and it was from their interest to reprise the performance that we are doing it again.”
The cast features Judy Deck, Jennifer Kleinheksel, Mary Keller and Kitsey Burns Harrison.
Keller was the first of the group to begin suggesting they do the show again and she said she hopes that there will be a big turnout on Saturday.
“Vaginas, and all that comes with them, are complicated, mysterious, beautiful and sometimes tragic. We really should talk about them more often. If you have a vagina, or know someone who does, you will enjoy this show,” Keller said.
The production also marks a very special milestone for the theater group and arts council.
“This garden performance marks the 100th production Foothills Theatre, an associate member of the Foothills Arts Council, has done since 1969 — not just counting the big summer musicals that kicked off under the name of Elkin Summer Theatre, but also the winter plays that originally served dinner and now are our dessert theater productions, the plays put on by Kidshop Theatre, the children’s summer theater daycamp, and the garden performances which began in 2012.”
Martin Wright, who initiated the garden performances, said the garden venue provides a unique staging area for non-traditional productions.
“The play ‘The Vagina Monologues’ is performed in readers’ theater style in our garden, as we have done before with ‘Love, Loss and What I Wore,’ and ‘Motherhood Out Loud.’ Our garden is the ideal setting for these type of performances. Admission is free and the audience should bring their own chairs, and a cooler with snacks if they’d like,” Martin Wright said.
The title may sound a bit shocking, but Martin Wright said she hoped that wouldn’t put people off from attending as the production addresses many important issues relating to women.
“I love the way it begins, ‘I bet you’re worried,’ because seeing a play on this subject probably is worrisome to many people,” she said. “But if they can overcome the worry and come hear these monologues taken from actual interviews, then they will find hilarious, heartbreaking and poignant essays. My favorite is the final monologue, written as a poem really, about childbirth.”
Cast member Judy Deck said she, too, believes the stories will leave a great impression on any who come to the show, as they have on her.
“When I first read ‘The Vagina Monologues,’ I was struck by the universality of each story,” Deck said. “Every woman can identify with these vignettes in one way or another. I love this play because it speaks to every women who ever lived. I was most moved by the story dedicated to the women of the Bosnian-Serbian war. The fact that rape can be, and in fact has been, used as a military tactic and a weapon of war horrifies me. Those who use it seek to damage the physical and mental and to destroy the emotional, and it’s horribly effective.”
While some of the stories, like the one mentioned by Deck, are difficult to hear, they share a powerful message about the atrocities often brought upon women. Some of the monologues are also fun and lighthearted stories.
Kitsey Burns Harrison, who has been an active performer with Foothills Theatre since 2007, said it is one of her favorite productions.
“I love all the shows I have done with Foothills over the years, but this is one I am particularly proud of,” Harrison said. “While I am lucky to have most of the monologues that are more silly and funny, I think this show is such a powerful piece and a powerful reminder of what it means to be a woman. I am truly honored to be a part of it.”
The show, at its core, is simply a celebration of womanhood.
“Women should celebrate themselves, every unique part of themselves, for the astounding, remarkable, reinventing creatures we are,” said Deck.
For more information on Foothills Theatre, find it on Facebook, or visit FoothillsArtsCouncil.org/theater.