“The Vagina Monologues” is a show that, when seen, can never be unseen, or so is typically the goal. Director TG Matthews Cox’s cast (of all LGBTQ performers) possesses the chemistry, intensity and passion required to achieve this goal.
On July 31 at Charlotte’s The Enclave, stage lights will rise over an almost wholly lesbian cast at 7 p.m. This production is the third time that Cox has directed a stage performance of the play, and, despite the challenges that COVID-19 has put forth, she is excited to see the show come to life.
“As a lesbian, I always appreciate art that incorporates an inclusive and/or diverse presence,” Cox shares, “Though the context or intent of the monologues that are performed doesn’t change, with having an all LGBTQ cast, the energy does. In my opinion, the deliveries seem more powerful and more relatable for non-binary women, even more poignant.”
Most of the participants have been engaged in the theatre for years and are a part of the tight-knit community of North Carolina-based performers. Cox invited each team member on merit as well as chemistry. In the past, rehearsals have been held in cast members’ homes. COVID-19, however, has seriously limited the amount of time and number of locations available for rehearsals.
“Preparation has been interesting because we are in a state of collective trauma,” performer Fatima Mann says of the pandemic-related practice restrictions. Mann goes on to emphasize the balance necessary for those emerging from months of quarantine as they readjust to group gatherings. Multiple cast members also point out the limited seating at the event itself, again highlighting the importance of staying safe during the pandemic.
In addition to being LGBTQ-identified, the cast is also made up of several women of color. Many scholars have studied Eve Ensler’s “The Vagina Monologues” with a critical lens, claiming that her production does not put women of color in the most flattering of spotlights.
“Rape is represented directly in the script only in monologues where the speakers are women of color,” alleges a piece published in the University of Chicago’s Women’s Studies Department. Author Christine Cooper goes on to write, “Unlike these others, the unmarked voices of American whiteness have their vaginas and selves intact. They may get pissed off at the gynecologist’s office, but they get the best of medical care.”
The lack of representation for voices of Black women in “The Vagina Monologues” is a feeling of limitation that performers Kistyn Matthews Cox and Cayme Andrea would like to see lifted. Actress Jenny Ashcraft would like to highlight the struggles of sex trafficking. “Too many girls and women are being sex slaves,” she says, “and more education needs to be provided.”Cox feels that Eve Ensler’s “The Vagina Monologues” should be performed as they are; the production itself should not be altered. However, she hopes to create a series of monologues written from the perspective of LGBTQ individuals in the future.
Myrna Key-Parker and her fellow performer GoddessLyrical Carter have pondered what “The Vagina Monolgues” might be like if they included their gender expansive siblings in tales of vagina-revelry and disdain.
Carter says she believes male-to-female transgender individuals should have a safe space to explore their thoughts on the importance of the vagina. On the other side of that coin, Key-Parker is interested in seeing the perspective of a female-to-male individual as they undergo the transition process. She says that she, and many who do not identify as transgender men, could learn a lot from hearing how a trans man’s relationship evolves with his genitalia.
Leslie Verleane Oliver says that incorporating men in the show would add to the performance’s purpose of representation. “It could be interesting to have men in the production that affirm vaginas,” Oliver suggests, “and own their mistreatment of them.”
Unfortunately, there is not enough time for every single story to be told throughout the three-hour show.
Cox and the cast maintain that, although they would add some things to the show if given the opportunity, they are proud to present an LGBTQ rendition of a 20-year-old production.
One of the main motivating factors for Cox to direct “The Vagina Monologues” in 2021 was the memory of her friend Samantha Cer-John.
Cer-John was instrumental in the previous two versions of the play that she and Cox produced in 2014 and 2016. A portion of the proceeds from this year’s performance will be donated to My Style Matters, Inc. in honor of Cer-John. An educational nonprofit, My Style Matters is a nonprofit for those with cancer and their caretakers.
The July 31 show will be hosted by special guest Chirl Girl, a popular Queen City media personality.
“People with vaginas are impacted by what happens to their vaginas,” Mann says matter-of-factly. We are not separate things, and it’s okay to admit when the impact to our vaginas shows up in our daily lives. I hope that what audience members take away is that it is okay to be in tune with what is happening to their bodies, whether they have vaginas or not.
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