Picture, if you will, Opening Night 2009 of “The Vagina Monologues” at Red Bluff’s State Theater: Advance sales of 75 tickets suddenly swelled to a crowd of 400 and delayed the curtain-raising as theater staff scrambled to open a second section of seating. Unexpected at-the-door ticket sales combined with unexpected numbers of men in the audience shattered a couple of myths about a community perceived as conservative.
This year, the production has added a matinee show to the annual event (Saturday) that benefits Alternatives to Violence, the Tehama County nonprofit group that offers shelter, a hot line, crisis intervention, assistance with restraining orders, education and support groups to victims of domestic violence. A portion of the proceeds from the production also benefit the V-Day Spotlight Campaign, Women of the Congo.
V-Day, created by “The Vagina Monologues” author Eve Ensler, is a global movement to stop violence against women and girls through benefit productions. The Red Bluff production is one of 4,000 V-Day benefit events produced by local volunteer activists, performed in theaters, community centers, houses of worship, and college campuses around the world, raising funds for local groups within their communities.
“The Vagina Monologues,” now performed in over 45 languages in 130 countries, is a celebration of women’s sexuality and strength, originally written in 1996 and based on interviews with 200 women. I spoke with the youngest cast member, Jessica Rabalais about the show, her experiences and her boyfriend’s reaction to her performance.
Tell us about your experience in the theater.
My first play was a Missoula Children’s Theater play here in Red Bluff: “The Wiz of the West.” So I’ve been acting since I was 8. I was invited to audition for and got accepted to the Missoula Children’s Theater Performing arts camp in Montana, and this year will be my fifth and final year in attendance. I’ve been in five high school productions, the most recent being “Becoming Memories,” just a few weeks ago. It’s safe to say that “The Vagina Monologues” is definitely not like children’s or high school theater. It’s challenging in a way I’m not normally challenged.
What appealed to you about “The Vagina Monologues”?
It’s something new. I get to help a fantastic cause in a way that I’m comfortable. Acting, that is. I get to use my skills as an actress to try something new and see my limits while helping Alternatives to Violence. This is my second year cast in the same monologue, but it has a twist this year, which I’m interested to see in action.
Without giving too much away, tell a bit about your monologue.
It’s sad. It’s awful. It has so much impact on the audience after the anecdotal monologues that precede it. The monologue is actually double cast, with me and another actress saying different parts of it.
What has been the reaction from your peers about your role in the show?
Most of them have to ask me what I said to make sure they heard right. My closest friends are used to it because I did it last year, but they’ve been refusing to go. I’m doing my best to get them to attend because I know that the show is a great thing for women. My boyfriend and his friend, however, think it’s hilarious and are trying to talk me into letting them be there. Most other people get extremely uncomfortable.
How about the community in general?
Many adults think it’s great. One of my teachers attended last year, and I know she’s encouraging everyone she knows to attend this year. They’re usually shocked after seeing me in the high school’s productions and then seeing me up there. They can’t believe it’s the same person that was a little girl two weeks ago on the high school stage, now talking about vaginas.
To learn more about V-Day, visit vday.org.
What: “The Vagina Monologues,” to benefit Alternatives to Violence
Where: State Theater for the Arts, 333 Oak Street, Red Bluff
When: Saturday, Feb. 20, 2 p.m. and 7 p.m.
Cost: $10 in advance, $12 at the door. Tickets available at Plum Crazy, Discover Earth, The Big Picture, Alternatives to Violence in Red Bluff, and Toucan Tans in Redding.
Adam Mankoski is a recent North State transplant who feels completely at home here. He enjoys experiencing and writing about the people, places and things that embody the free spirit of the State of Jefferson. He and his partner own HawkMan Studios and are the creators of Redding’s 2nd Saturday ArtHop. Email your Norths State events to firstname.lastname@example.org.