Crowd responds enthusiastically to controversial play
by Dianna Wray
Feb. 12, 2011 at 10 p.m.
Updated Feb. 11, 2011 at 8:12 p.m.
The women were a little nervous as they waited in the wings of the stage, dressed in black and red.
"Shhh, be quiet."
"Are you ready, ladies?"
They stood there in the wings of the Victoria College Johnson Symposium while a packed house buzzed with expectation, ready to take in the first performance of "The Vagina Monologues" in Victoria.
The award-winning play, which debuted in 1996, is a series of monologues based on Eve Ensler's interviews with more than 200 women.
The play, staged at Victoria College, was met with some controversy in the community, but threatened protests of the production didn't occur except for a lone protester holding an anti-abortion sign.
The first production of the episodic play about all things vagina - sex, love, rape, menstruation, mutilation, masturbation, orgasm and birth - was sold out, with 90 percent of the proceeds going to Midcoast Family Services Women's Crisis Center. The other 10 percent will go to the National V-Day organization.
Mary Stahoviak, a Victoria College English professor, was one of 13 participants in the play.
She said the controversy surrounding the performance just brought the actors closer together.
"I think it was good for us. We started out just thinking it would be fun, but as it became more and more of an issue, it really bonded us together in this," Stahoviak said.
Student Amanda Olguin came to the opening night with her mother, Denise Freudensprung.
Olguin said she was glad she came to see for herself what the play was all about.
"I mean, I'm glad they did the show here. I wanted to come and see it because I couldn't see what was so wrong with it. It's not a word we use all of the time, but that doesn't make it a bad word," Olguin said.
She and her mother came out of the play with wide smiles on their faces.
"It was wonderful," Olguin said, as her mother nodded enthusiastically in agreement.
Victoria resident Johnny Vera said he had heard a lot about the play, but decided to come out and see for himself.
"I've heard of it before, but I'd never seen it. I like to make up my own mind about things, so that's why I was here," Vera said.
The house lights went dark, and as the actresses stepped onstage in their places on a stage draped with softly billowing lengths of scarlet silk.
The audience tittered nervously at first, skittish at the use of the word "vagina." But as the actresses moved through the monologue, they warmed to the play. Nervous giggles gave way to laughter. When one woman performed the monologue describing a brutal rape, the sadness in the room was palpable. When another woman demonstrated the triple orgasm, the laughter almost shook the floor.
At the close of the show, audience members leapt to their feet, applauding the work.
Victoria College English professor and director of the show Lisa DeVries said the players were thrilled with the reception to the show.
"I think domestic violence and sexual abuse are things that happen far too often to women around the world," DeVries said, noting that the show brings attention to these issues.
"This is part of a worldwide movement, and I'm very proud to say it's in Victoria," DeVries said.