It’s been 19 years since the debut of Eve Ensler’s The Vagina Monologues, in which she looked at the many aspects of women’s sexuality, including the problems of rape and abuse, using interviews with real women as her raw material.
The play, which has both its ardent fans and its fierce detractors (locally, Amherst Regional High School found itself criticized on Fox News after a student performance in 2004), generated buzz outside the traditional theater crowd—buzz that Ensler harnessed for a political purpose.
In 1998, the playwright started the nonprofit V-Day, which supports productions of the play by groups around the world, with the proceeds supporting local programs that work with women who’ve been abused. According to V-Day, more than 5,800 productions are staged each year, most of them scheduled around Valentine’s Day.
“We proclaim Valentine’s Day as V-Day, to celebrate women and end the violence,” the group says in its mission statement. So far, V-Day events have raised more than $90 million, according to organizers.
This year is the 15th anniversary of the first V-Day, and to mark it, in addition to the local theater productions, one-day “One Billion Rising” events are also being planned for Feb. 14. The locally organized events will feature visual artists and performances, with a focus on dance; as the main organization puts it, “Dancing insists we take up space. It has no set direction but we go there together. It’s dangerous, joyous, sexual, holy, disruptive. It breaks the rules. It can happen anywhere at anytime with anyone and everyone. It’s free. No corporation can control it. It joins us and pushes us to go further.”
In the Valley, a One Billion Rising event is planned for Feb. 14 at noon at Springfield’s Tower Square, 1500 Main St. The event will include performances by Westfield’s Small Planet Dancers and Easthampton’s Valley Women’s Martial Arts Institute for Healing and Violence Prevention, as well as Evelyn Harris, formerly of Sweet Honey in the Rock. “Come join us for singing and dancing and a celebration of women to draw strength from our collective energy and power,” organizers say.
Other V-Day events are scheduled at Hampshire College and UMass, and a flash mob is planned for 5 p.m. in downtown Northampton. Events will also take place in Brattleboro and Pittsfield. For more information, go to www.onebillionrising.org; search “events” for details on local happenings.•