The power of women is echoing around the globe as women are gathering and raising their voices to speak out about many social issues, including equal pay, health care and safe workplaces.
On Feb. 17 at the Greenwich Odeum, V-Day East Greenwich hosted a 20th anniversary production of Eve Ensler’s groundbreaking play “The Vagina Monologues.” Nineteen Rhode Island women raised their voices, and the roof, as they shared stories about women around the world and celebrated everything female.
The show was produced and directed by North Kingstown resident Nancy Rafi, which was her 18th time doing so in 20 years.
“I never would have thought this is what I’d be doing every February for the past 18 years, but it’s sure been a lot of fun,” Rafi said. “Almost 20 years ago my girlfriends dragged me to Boston to see Eve perform the play for her last time and I thought to myself ‘a play about vaginas? How interesting can that be?’ I had no idea it would be so impactful. Eve shared women’s stories about their complex relationships, surviving sexual assault, what women’s vaginas would wear if they got dressed – there were dozens of stories and it was a roller coaster of laughter and tears for almost 2 hours.”
This year’s cast included Patty Bamford from Cranston.
“I heard about rehearsals for the Vagina Monologues from a friend,” she said. “I told myself 'I'm gonna do this,' but then almost backed out from self-doubt and fear. I'm so grateful I showed up because it has made me feel part of something big, beautiful, strong, and smart.”
Natalie Colletta, who grew up in Warwick, stated, "I was raised by a fierce feminist and trained as an art historian with specialization in women’s studies, so I was honored to be invited into the cast of The Vagina Monologues. As a mother of two spectacular daughters, the citizenry spirit of supporting our show’s beneficiary, Safe BAE, was a big influence on my decision too.”
This year’s production raised funds for Safe BAE, a nonprofit organization that works with and supports high school students that have survived sexual assault.
“My husband and I are raising our children to be outspoken, resilient women because their bodies and freedoms are being attacked by the current Administration,” said Coletta. “The Vagina Monologues is an anthem to women in Rhode Island and around the globe to resist the abuses and restrictions that have long been perpetuated and ignored.”
Over the past two decades, tens of thousands of communities and college campuses have staged V-Day benefit performances of The Vagina Monologues in over 200 countries. V-Day activists have raised consciousness, changed laws to protect women and girls, funded rape crisis centers and domestic violence shelters (often these much-needed funds kept them from closing), educated their communities, and raised well over $100 million in urgently needed funds for groups doing the essential work of ending violence and serving survivors and their families.
For its 20th anniversary, V-Day is calling on activists around the world to “Rise, Resist and Unite.”
According to Rafi, The New York Times called “The Vagina Monologues” “probably the most important piece of political theater of the last decade." The play – first performed Off-Broadway and in locations around the world – dives into the mystery, humor, pain, power, wisdom, outrage and excitement in women’s experiences.
V-Day grew out of the play, which exploded onto the scene in 1998, breaking taboos about women’s sexuality and shattering silence around violence done to women and girls.
“It’s been a great privilege for me to work with V-Day for all of these years” said Rafi. “We’ve raised almost $40,000 for local organizations that are working to end violence against women and girls in our state. Every year I put out a call and invite women to get involved, and amazingly they always show up. We all start out as strangers, most have no acting background at all, and by the time we’re at dress rehearsal we’re a close-knit group and the best of friends. We have deep discussions about women’s issues and get to know each other on such a deep level that many of the actresses create lifelong friendships.”
“It’s such an empowering project and women really get a chance to bond and share their own stories – and then give a voice to other women’s stories. It’s life changing. And it seems that the audience loves it to – we have packed theaters every year,” said Rafi.
For more information about V-Day East Greenwich, or to purchase tickets, please visit www.vdayri.com.