The V-word

V-Day coalition brings the Vagina Monologues to Juneau for one night

Posted: Thursday, February 13, 2003

Anita Maynard-Losh has something to say to anyone who thinks "vagina" is a dirty word.

"Everybody's mother has one," Maynard-Losh announced at a recent rehearsal of Eve Ensler's play "The Vagina Monologues." "The issue isn't the word 'vagina.' The issue is that women are getting beaten, raped and murdered daily."

Maynard-Losh, Perseverance Theatre's associate artistic director, is part of V-Day, a national coalition dedicated to eradicating violence against women and children. As a capstone to a week's worth of V-Day Alaska events in Juneau, Maynard-Losh will direct a one-night-only showing of "The Vagina Monologues" at 7 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 16, at Centennial Hall.

Maynard-Losh will then take the production on the road, visiting Sitka, Dillingham and Bethel.

On The Web:

Official V-Day site

V-Day is both a day and an organization created by Ensler in 1998. The group sponsors community events, mixing old-fashioned activism with theater to raise awareness of violence against women and money for local anti-violence organizations. The "V" in V-day stands for valentine, victory and vagina, according to the organization's Web site. Proceeds from the Juneau show will be donated to AWARE, a Juneau shelter for abused women and children.

At the core of V-Day are Ensler's collection of monologues taken from interviews with real women. Performed on a pared-down set with only a backdrop and a stool, the play puts strong emphasis on the women's stories. Maynard-Losh said the monologues, which range from humorous to emotionally devastating, are pertinent to everyone.

"It's hard to find any woman whose life hasn't been touched by domestic violence and sexual assault," Maynard-Losh said. "Particularly as a parent, I feel it's time for this to stop."

The Juneau version of "Vagina Monologues" will feature Aleut actor Jane Garritson from Montana, Alanna Malone from Juneau, and Tuyet Thi Pham from Washington, D.C. Annette Coggins, former executive director of AWARE, is serving as producer of V-Day Alaska. The group also will hold monologue-writing workshops at the University of Alaska Southeast and visit Juneau's Rotary clubs and the state Legislature.

"We just started doing monologue workshops (in Juneau) and already we've gotten feedback that people's awareness has increased and that they look at the world differently after participating," Coggins said.

Since its inception, the V-Day movement has raised an estimated $14 million, more than half of it in 2002 alone. In October of 2002, the founders of V-Day launched The Indian Country Project, dedicated to raising awareness of violence against American Indian women in the United States and Canada.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, from 1992 to 1996 the rate of rape and sexual assault among Native Americans was 3.5 times higher than any other racial group in the United States. In Alaska, the rate of sexual assault against Native women is more than twice the national average.

"V-Day offers (Alaska Native and American Indian people) a unique opportunity to raise awareness of the rampant problem of violence against Native women and girls and to spark sustainable, community-sponsored events," said Indian Country Project Director Suzanne Blue Star Boy.

Indian Country Project donated part of the funding to allow Maynard-Losh's company to visit Sitka, Dillingham and Bethel.

Not every Alaska community has welcomed the V-Day events. V-Day Alaska canceled a production of "Vagina Monologues" in Barrow following concerns from some arts funding organizations about content, Maynard-Losh said.

She said that "sometimes the words (in Ensler's play) aren't pretty" but stressed they are important because they are taken from real women's stories.

" 'The Vagina Monologues' helps women talk about things they aren't 'supposed' to talk about - not just sexual assault, but sexuality, their personal issues; it creates a sense of unity and strength among women," Maynard-Losh said.

She also wants people to realize that although "The Vagina Monologues" deals with serious subjects, it also "has a lot of humor ... it's really celebratory," she said.

Saralyn Tabachnick, executive director of AWARE, said she hopes the play will have an impact in Juneau.

"If individuals in our community can walk away with a shift in thinking, a realization that each of us can be an agent of change, and one by one speak out against all forms of violence against women and children, the face of Juneau, of Alaska, of our world, will be more bright and more beautiful," she said.

Tickets for "The Vagina Monologues" are $20 and can be purchased in advance at Hearthside Books, Perseverance Theatre, www.perseverancetheatre.org, AWARE or at the door on the night of the performance. VIP tickets are available for $50 and include front-row seating and a pre-show wine and appetizer reception at DiSopra.



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