the vagina monologues
The playwright reached a similar epiphany about The Vagina Monologues when it went on tour and staged performances in an Oklahoma City warehouse in 1996. It wasn't easy to get the word out, but women found the show, pulling up in pickups and bringing their own chairs, Ensler recalls. The event has a starring role in one of the play's monologues. 'I really think that this movement began in many ways in Oklahoma City, because everyone was so scared of it there,' she said. 'I mean, they couldn't even advertise it in the local newspapers... It all happened through e-mail, and it all happened undercover, and what happened was that people showed up, and women needed it. In a way what it taught me was that this movement would happen in the grassroots, community-level, and that's what happened. Oklahoma City was really central to the beginning of this whole thing.'"
- Michael Smith, Tulsa World
The Vagina Monologues is an episodic play written by Eve Ensler which ran at the Off-Broadway Westside Theatre after a limited run at HERE Arts Center in 1996. It is made up of a varying number of monologues read by a varying number of women (initially, Ensler performed every monologue herself, with subsequent performances featuring three actresses, and more recent versions featuring a different actress for every role). Each of the monologues deals with an aspect of the feminine experience, touching on matters such as sex, love, rape, menstruation, birth, the various common names for the vagina, or simply as a physical aspect of the body. A recurring theme throughout the piece is the vagina as a tool of female empowerment, and the ultimate embodiment of individuality.
Ensler wrote the first draft of the monologues in 1996 (there have been several revisions since) following interviews she conducted with 200 women about their views on sex, relationships, and violence against women. The interviews began as casual conversations with her friends, who then brought up anecdotes they themselves had been told by other friends; this began a continuing chain of referrals. She stated in an interview with Women.com, "I'm obsessed with women being violated and raped, and with incest. All of these things are deeply connected to our vaginas."
Ensler states that in 1998, the purpose of the piece changed from a celebration of vaginas and femininity to a movement to stop violence against women.
She remembers the beginnings of this movement, when she wasn't focused on changing the world and only 'hoped that someone would produce my play somewhere way, way, way downtown' in New York, she said, laughing. Someone did produce the show, and it was at those downtown performances where she realized she had plugged into something larger than a play. Women lined up following the shows and confided in Ensler their tales of abuse.