Friday, February 13, 2004

Brenda Kwon performed the monologue called "Short Skirt" during a rehearsal for "The Vagina Monologues."

A different
kind of V-day

The local staging of "The Vagina Monologues" is turning into an annual tradition. Over the past four years, Eve Ensler's wide-ranging collection of testimonials about the demystification and celebration of all things "down there" has ranged from small-cast productions featuring celebrity guests, to ensemble-cast gatherings brought together for a more serious purpose.

'The Vagina Monologues'

A benefit production of GiRL FeST Hawaii

Where: Hawaii Theatre

When: 8 p.m. Sunday

Tickets: $12 to $32

Call: 528-0506

Also: Reception party featuring "The Menologues" and music by Sisters In Sound following the production, starting at 10 p.m. at the W Honolulu Diamond Head, 2885 Kalakaua Ave., 2nd floor, free for those with theater tickets, $5 at the door for those without, 21 and over.

Since 1998, Ensler has been one of the forces behind the internationally recognized V-Day. It's part of a continuing global movement to stop violence against women and girls, and whenever Valentine's Day rolls around, Ensler allows her script to be performed (without her usual fee) by local women's organizations to help benefit their own projects.

The University of Hawaii at Manoa and Leeward Community College have both staged their own successful "Vagina Monologues" in 2001 and 2003, respectively, and this year's GiRL FeST community production looks to be one of the more diverse and street savvy.

At Sunday afternoon's rehearsal at the Honolulu Theatre for Youth's space in the airport area, co-directors Kathryn Xian from GiRL FeST and Hawaii Slam poet Kealoha were working on pacing and presentation with their cast for this one-time-only performance. (Local color and references, plus sobering statistics, will be part of the performance as well.)

Authors Lois-Ann Yamanaka and Nora Okja Keller gave it their best in bringing to life Ensler's script. Yamanaka brings a dose of broad pidgin humor to her "Hair" monologue and Keller vamps it up a bit in relating the loving details of "Because He Liked to Look at It."

Sami Akuna is hilarious, as his drag persona Cocoa Chandelier grandly expresses her very liberating experience in a self-exploratory workshop. (Akuna's Giinko Maraschino dance troupe will also be part of the evening's entertainment). Xtreme Radio personality Tanisha -- despite rough edges -- is revelatory in her version of "The Little Coochie Snorcher That Could." The same can be said for Jacquie Yang's effusive portrayal of a female-friendly sex worker.

Lighting designer Janine Myers, who worked on last year's LCC production, said this production strikes her "as more professional, a lot crisper, and maybe even a more intense experience."

But the provocative comic moments are interspersed with more serious monologues, like Jennifer Vo's channeling an elderly Jewish woman in "The Flood," and the devastating "In Memory of Her Face," an ensemble piece that tells of the horrible mutilation of women in areas like Islamabad, Baghdad and Ciudad Juarez.

The situation in the latter -- a Mexican city across the border from El Paso, Texas -- is this year's V-Day spotlight issue. In past years, the plight of aboriginal and Native American women have been related.

Xian said that 10 percent of the proceeds of ticket sales for Sunday's performance will be given to the effort to stop violence against the women and girls of Ciudad Juarez. In fact, there will be a march on Ciudad Juarez tomorrow, Valentine's Day, where hundreds of young women have been reportedly abducted and murdered in the past decade.

According to a report by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, 268 women and girls have been killed since 1993, and that "in a substantial number of cases, the victims were young women or girls, workers in the maquilas (assembly plants) or students, who were sexually abused before being brutally killed."

A dancer for "The Vagina Monologues," known as Sequoia, moved to a piece during rehearsal at the Honolulu Theatre for Youth's space.

THE REST OF Sunday's eclectic cast will include poet Joy Harjo, Brenda Kwon (who co-edited the Bamboo Ridge Press anthology "Yobo"), Hawaii Slam Team poet Selah Hope Geissler, Kasi from the Rebel Girl Underground and Grace Alvaro Caligtan from the Teen Alert Program, Domestic Violence Clearinghouse and Legal Hotline. DJ Primmitiv will be on the decks spinning music throughout the performance.

Immediately afterward, Amelia Borofsky, co-editor of "ReGeneration: Telling Stories from Our Twenties" will read Ensler's latest project statement, "Vagina Warriors: An Emerging Paradigm, An Emerging Species," inspired by women who make a difference in their own communities.

Hawaii's own first four Warriors will be honored as part of the V-Day Honolulu campaign: Puanani Burgess of Pu'a Foundation, champion kite-surfer Sheldon Plentovich, professor Kathryn Takara of the UH Liberal Studies Department, and Kashawnia Crump of Sisters Offering Support.

Then, to top off the evening, a reception party will be given at the W Honolulu Diamond Head Hotel. To supplement that evening's "Vagina Monologues," Kealoha has also organized "The Menologues."

"It should provide the same experience as the monologues," he said, "except it'll be males echoing the same issues brought up earlier in the evening, like domestic abuse." The combination of solo and group pieces all are written by the participants, which include Kealoha and his male Hawaii Slam Team mates Intrepid, Melvin Borja and Travis Thompson, storyteller Jeff Gere, Seph One and DJ Rise Up, and poet and MC Cee.

The Sisters in Sound also will be spinning, and celebrating the return of DJ Zita, who's been away in San Francisco. (See another SIS event on the Nitelife page.)

All of this in the spirit of victory, valentine -- and vagina.

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