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Vaginas, Unite!

The Vagina Monologues phenomenon finally reaches St. Louis


Since its premiere in 1996, The Vagina Monologues has evolved into a cultural phenomenon -- a movement, even. The play has spawned a new awareness day, V-Day, that raises millions of dollars to help fight violence against women and girls everywhere. Edgy, poignant, funny and horrifying, The Vagina Monologues takes the most desecrated, misunderstood, abused part of the female anatomy and shows us why "that place down there" is so sacred and should be treated accordingly.

Compiled by playwright Eve Ensler, the creator and original performer of The Vagina Monologues, here are examples of the vagina revolution in action and why we need it:

· CNN does a 10-minute special on The Vagina Monologues but never mentions the V-word.

· V-Day has an impossible time raising money from corporations. Even companies that sell vaginal products refuse to associate with the word.

· Wesleyan University now offers a "Cunt Workshop."

· Women and men often faint during the show -- always at the same place in the script.

The list of "vagina occurrences" goes on, and now, through the collaborative efforts of the good people at Edison Theatre, Fox Associates, and the St. Louis Repertory Theatre, St. Louisans can see the show that reportedly made Barbara Walters cringe with embarrassment.

So, will it make you uncomfortable? Everyone is different. Mike Isaacson, vice president for programming and associate producer at Fox Associates, says that wasn't his response when he saw the play in Manhattan: "The three women on the stools create this real level of intimacy and comfort. It disarms you. It pulls you there, and you go with it. For lack of a better word, it seduces you."

The play is simple and straightforward, a study in storytelling as much as the theatrical arts. Three women sit sharing a bare stage, taking turns relating tales and tidbits about the vagina. The vignettes are based on -- and sometimes taken nearly verbatim from -- more than 200 interviews conducted by Ensler with women of almost every ethnicity, age, religion, and sexual orientation in the U.S. The monologues pack a lot of power, and star actresses have lined up to take on the coveted roles. Performers have included Glenn Close, Calista Flockhart, Whoopi Goldberg, Rosie Perez, Winona Ryder, Susan Sarandon and Marisa Tomei, to name just a few.

In St. Louis, the first week of the performances will feature TV and movie star Carol Kane, joined by touring actresses Tracey A. Leigh and Amy Love. During the second week, KMOX-AM's Carol Daniel, co-host of Total Information P.M., will share the stage with Leigh and Love. Daniel says The Vagina Monologues is important because "as women, we are in touch with everything, but not always our bodies. Here's a production that says, 'This is a real part of me, and I shouldn't be ashamed of it.'"

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