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The She Stands Tall Project presents The Vagina Monologues in Bangalore this month. Here, some women share their stories of preparing for this project.
The Vagina Monologues continues to inspire a roller coaster of emotions, decades after it was first staged. This time around, The She Stands Tall Project (www.shestandstall.com) brings the award-winning play by Eve Ensler to two venues- Lahe Lahe (Feb 17, 2018) and Shoonya (Feb 18, 2018) in Bangalore.
When you face a fear or attempt something new, everyone tells you to start small. Auditioning for The Vagina Monologues as a non-actor and speaking about sexual assault and your vagina is not what immediately comes to mind.
It all started with a call for women who wanted to be a part of a benefit production of The Vagina Monologues. I replied to Rekha Kurup, who was going to be directing it, even without allowing my mind to process what that would mean. During the audition process, I read a monologue that hit a little close to home and wondered whether I would be able to stand in front of an audience and lay claim to those powerful words that echoed my experiences with unwanted touch. Did I want to ride this emotional roller coaster? Was I ready for all those long-buried feelings to emerge? Did I truly want to get this uncomfortable?
Entrepreneurs, mothers, artists, daughters, therapists, dancers, single women, lovers— the women who are part of The Vagina Monologues have courageous hearts and a beauty that shines from within. One of the women who is part of the production, Rashmi Balakrishnan, creative movement practitioner and training facilitator shares her experience. She says, “For me, the monologue about the similarity between the vagina and the heart echoed my own personal experience. In it, Eve says that the heart is capable of sacrifice just like the vagina. She says that both are able to love and forgive and repair and expand. I am a mother of two wonderful daughters, one of whom I gave birth to and one who is a daughter of my heart, my adopted daughter. Isn’t is so synchronistic that I am performing that very piece?”
The Vagina Monologues is an invitation to those watching and those performing— to reclaim one’s pain, joy, stories, power and femininity.
Everything that is shakti in oneself. I understood it as an opportunity to connect to the universal feminine within each one of us through these stories from women across the world. It is one of those experiences that shows you how similar we are regardless of our race, religion or upbringing.
From a tentative mother who had recently re-entered the workplace and a photographer who had battled cancer to a young woman who initially didn’t get what all the fuss about vaginas was about, the experience of being a part of The Vagina Monologues turned out to be one that would transform each one of us whether we were ready for it or not.
Rehearsals became a space for sharing openly, for being vulnerable and tapping into one’s undiscovered strengths. Food, chai and deep connecting quickly led to a kind of sisterhood that was difficult for me to otherwise imagine.
Madhura Srinivas, photographer says, “Being a part of The Vagina Monologues seemed like a natural course of action for me— as a woman in India, a 31 year old, a cancer survivor and someone who has experienced and survived domestic violence. Though it brought up a lot of trauma, this experience has provided immense support and an opportunity to move through whatever has surfaced. For me, these monologues represent all women. The word ‘vagina’ rolls off my tongue more easily now. This experience has brought tears, laughter, angst, acceptance and most of all, reverence towards my own body.”
Performed by women of varying ages and from all walks of life, all of whom are non-actors, the production marks the second anniversary of the She Stands Tall Project work in Bangalore and the twentieth anniversary of V-Day 2018.
A highly relevant play for the people of India, Rekha Kurup, Director of the play & Founder of The She Stands Tall Project shares what inspired her to stage the play in Bangalore. She says, “According to me, there is life before the Vagina Monologues and life after the Vagina Monologues. In 2011, when I first got the opportunity to participate in The Vagina Monologues, I became a different person from that day on, watching the performance and hearing these stories which I so deeply connected to. It brings me such exhilaration and joy to be able to see the energy, the beauty and the strength of the Indian woman infusing these monologues.”
So, here I stand at what seems to me the edge of a cliff, ready to take a swan-dive and embrace what is surely going to be a life-changing experience.
Images source: the author