Star-Bulletin Features

Thursday, August 23, 2001

Jan Itamura, left, and Margaret Jones are in anguish over water bloat
in a scene from their work,"A Period Piece," being presented at the
Arts at Marks Garage. "I think people who haven't see it before
are going to enjoy it," Itamura said, "and people who have seen
it will find enough changes that they'll still get a kick out of it."

It’s just a play.


By John Berger

"It's that time of the month," the flier says, and anyone old enough to recognize the phrase as a euphemism for menstruation will be in sync with the program as Jan Itamura and Margaret Jones present "A Period Piece" today through Sunday at The Arts at Marks Garage.

Itamura and Jones debuted "A Period Piece" in 1993 at the old Lizard Loft on Kapahulu Avenue. The two-woman show was an imaginative and refreshingly honest look at an aspect of feminine sexuality that many Americans of both sexes are taught to consider "dirty," embarrassing and not something to be mentioned in mixed company. Itamura and Jones approached it matter-of-factly, primarily by sharing their own experiences. They also included segments written in more conventional style such as game show parodies and a "Fashion Dos and Don'ts" Top 10 list.


When: 8 p.m. today through Saturday and 4 p.m. Sunday.
Where: The Arts at Marks Garage, 1159 Nuuanu
Admission: $10
Call: 521-29030

The show was frank, honest, and entertaining. It earned rave reviews and drew mixed crowds -- couples, groups of both sexes, mothers and daughters.

Eight years later, the Lizard Loft has been revived as part of the downtown arts scene at Marks Garage. Itamura and Jones open a revised version of "A Period Piece" tonight.

"TIMES HAVE CHANGED so we tried to change different things to keep it interesting and bring a fresh new angle," Itamura said while she and Jones took a rehearsal break on Monday. Although the format and concept of the show will be the same, Itamura and Jones have been using Kumu Kahua stalwart Keith Kashiwada as an outside "third eye" during the editing and rehearsal process.

"I think people who haven't see it before are going to enjoy it and people who have seen it will find enough changes that they'll still get a kick out of it," Itamura said.

Props and displays of various items are being used more prominently in the new show. A segment on the experience of female roommates being "in sync" has been expanded. A parody of television shows has been updated. Jones and Itamura are also moving away from a basic "two women talking" format.

"A lot of different ideas came out as we rewrote," Jones said. "There were things from the old show that I didn't like, and there's more audience involvement this time. Expect to be involved, but there's nothing strenuous and nothing Make A."

Jones found some some of her perspectives have changed since she and Itamura co-wrote the original script.

"I was working on a monologue about how my mom didn't tell me about the period and how I felt. Why would my mom -- a nurse -- not tell me? When I first did it eight years ago I was a little angrier and more resentful. Now I'm more accepting. I think it had to do with my age. I understand more why she didn't bring it up then. Your maturity gives you a different take on it."

THE NEW PRODUCTION reflects the passage of time in other ways. There's an updated survey on the costs of various feminine hygieneproducts, a list of products that weren't around in 1993 and some that were but now are no longer available.

All going well, Itamura and Jones will also have a updated map of Oahu showing the locations of the public restrooms that offer the best per-unit prices.

"I don't want to give too much away but there's a price differential by (geographical) areas," Jones said.

Jones says that she and Itamura decided not to reshape the show into a vehicle for "answering back" to the men who trivialize or ridicule various aspects of the female cycle.

Margaret Jones, left, and Jan Itamura
perform a scene from "A Period Piece."

"I wanted to stay away from that. A lot of my friends have asked, 'Are you going to be, like, a bitch?' No. It's not really bitchy, it's not negative, it's not male-bashing."

And no, it's not in any way a local-style clone of "The Vagina Monologues."

First of all, Itamura and Jones note that "A Period Piece" predates "The Vagina Monologues" by several years and was written without knowledge of any other shows on either subject. And, although both shows start in the same general area they are otherwise completely different.

(Scheduling conflicts prevented Itamura and Jones from being part of the ensemble that staged "The Vagina Monologues" at the University of Hawai'i at Manoa in March.)

"People told us (in 1993) that we should take it on the road. A lot of people heard about it but never saw it," Jones said.

The Department of Education likewise never funded "A Period Piece" for school performances to help girls in the upper elementary grades prepare for the start of menstruation.

Pre-teens may know a lot more about sex than the pre-teens of 20 or 30 years ago, but there's still a need for honest straight-forward information and emotional support. Jones talks about that in a segment.

"WHEN I FIRST FOUND OUT about a period I freaked out. Then I learned it was going to happen to me and I was grossed out. And when I found out that it only happens to girls and not boys I had my first full-blown resentment -- and I was 8."

Itamura sees more openness about menstruation since she and Jones debuted the show eight years ago.

"There's actually a museum devoted to menstruation and all the products, the history, slang terms for it, and a Web site ( A man named Harry Finley maintains it. It's interesting that a man is being the keeper of all this information."

And while Finley maintains the museum, Itamura and Jones are doing their part here to defuse the mystery and sense of shame that continues to surround a normal part of every woman's life experience.

"This is not a play," Jones said. "There is no dramatic arc. It's just a whole lot of activities, stories and scenes that have to do with periods."

"It's a show, not a play," Itamura said. "It's 'A Period Piece.' "

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