Violence against women hasn’t stopped.
And until the violence stops, we need to keep fighting against it.
That’s the purpose of “V Day“. It is a global movement to help end violence against women. Activists in cities all over the world participate in benefits and events to raise both awareness and funds for the cause. Rape, battery, incest, sex slavery… they are all still very real in today’s society. We may not like talking about them, but they happen all the same.
Until the violence stops, we must fight against it.
In Ottawa, Ontario, a benefit production of the famous play “The Vagina Monologues” is being performed by a talented cast as part of their contribution for VDay 2015. The funds raised by the performance go towards The Sexual Assault Support Centre of Ottawa, The Ottawa Rape Crisis Centre, and the One Billion Rising Revolution.
“The Vagina Monologues” is an episodic play composed of a variety of women speaking monologues on topics related to the feminine experience, including violence against women. It is powerful, funny, and emotionally stirring.
Free Your V had a chance to speak with two of the talented cast members from the production in Ottawa.
“Samantha Oxley is a civil servant who has recently discovered a passion for performance arts and is thrilled to be making her theatrical debut with this performance in her first VDay.”
“Shirley Manh has been on stage, behind microphones, and in front of cameras since the 5th grade […]This is Shirley’s 5th Vagina Monologues show (her 2nd in Ottawa), and her 6th monologue.”
Why did you get involved with VDay 2015 and The Vagina Monologues?
Samantha: I wanted to become involved with VDay and TVM for many reasons. I wanted to surround myself with the beauty and power that the group of women in this production bring. I wanted to be a part of the change I hope for my future. My mother is a survivor of abuse. I am a survivor of abuse. This movement has a very powerful personal meaning to me.
Shirley: I consider myself fortunate to have been a part of the VDay movement since my first year in undergrad at Wilfrid Laurier University; the Women’s Centre at WLU produced the show every year on campus. That was about 12 years ago! I auditioned ‘just for fun’, and for a chance to perform in an interesting, well-known show. I got cast, and despite the fact that it was my first year, I performed both “My Vagina Was My Village” and “Cunt”, two monologues at either end of emotional extremes. The experience I got from being in that show was not just fun; instead, it was very powerful. I was connected to a deeper part of myself and to others who already had, or were just, experiencing the same transformation. And that’s what has kept me involved, year after year.
What, in your opinion, is the message of The Vagina Monologues?
Samantha: TVM celebrates the beauty of women. TVM is about personal empowerment, growth, and triumph. It honours the collective experiences of women and unites us as a community.
What is the most challenging aspect of being part of this performance?
Samantha: The most challenging part of being part of this performance is channeling the emotions that the content evokes. It’s made me think about who I am, reevaluate myself as a woman, changed how I feel about myself and my gender as a collective. Those changes have been amazing but powerfully emotional. Being part of TVM has made me more aware of who I am, made me love and accept myself and my fellow women as we are, for who we are. That shift in paradigm, although beautiful, completely changed my world.
Shirley: I’m not sure if I’ve ever told anyone this, but personally, I find it a challenge to be an audience member during “My Vagina Was My Village”, despite the fact that it was the first monologue I ever performed. I’ve heard it rehearsed and performed now by many, many other women over the years and it still brings tears to my eyes every single time. You become that girl, who once was living a beautiful life, and then became a victim of unimaginable violence. The dichotomy between those two worlds is stark; the imagery is vivid and can be difficult to listen to. I take a deep breath after every time I hear anyone rehearse it.
What is the most gratifying aspect of being part of this performance?
Samantha: The most gratifying part of being part of this performance is the beautiful and talented women I have had the privilege of becoming friends with. We’ve created a family. We care about each other, we support each other, we are invested in each other. We are all very different individually, but cohesive and collectively. I admire my fellow cast and crew and have learned so much away from them and through this experience.
Shirley: It’s a privilege to have the opportunity to share stories that aren’t your own. It’s definitely fun to create characters around a monologue, but I really appreciate knowing that these stories come from actual people that Eve Ensler met with. Every time I perform a different monologue, I try very hard to do justice to the women who are giving me the honour of sharing their story, and I find that to be a gratifying process.
Did you learn anything from your involvement in this project?
Samantha: I learned that I am capable of doing something I never thought I would do. I learned that I have a lot to learn about who I am, and that excites me. I learned that I have a lot to learn about other people and that excites me even more. I learned to love and accept myself, and I learned that I can help other women do the same.
Shirley: Every year, my involvement in VDay is humbling; it’s a reminder that everyone needs to be empowered, and a chance to practice that for myself.
Why should people come see this performance?
Samantha: There are so many reasons people should come! It’s a meaningful cause and attending means being part of that. It’s funny! It’s sad! It makes people laugh and cry. The cast and crew are talented and dedicated and I think the performances reflect that. There’s something for every woman (and man) in these monologues.
Shirley: Seeing The Vagina Monologues is perfect for people who:
– are interested in a fun night out
– appreciate community theatre and story-telling
– want to contribute to very, very, worthwhile causes that work towards supporting victims of sexual violence and ending violence against women
– will appreciate a ride on an emotional roller-coaster
– currently love women, would like to continue loving women, and/or would like to love women more
PS: We also love men, and love it even more when they come see the show as well!
You can get your tickets to support a fantastic cause (and see a fantastic performance of “The Vagina Monologues”!) here.