Kelli Howard of Pismo Beach has been the organizer and director of the South County production of “The Vagina Monologues” for the past three years.
This show was developed by Eve Ensler and has been touring the world for 15 years.
Kelli was living in Bakersfield, saw the show eight years ago and “fell in love with it.” When she moved here, she wanted to develop something for South County.
She began at the SLO Down Pub in Arroyo Grande three years ago and this year is producing the show at The Spot in the Village.
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Many of the performers are South County residents, including three Arroyo Grande high school students. Among them is Kelli’s daughter, Ryanne, 18, a senior. Three mother-daughter pairs are in the show.
Performer Mary Kaye Horton of Arroyo Grande, whose teenage daughter is in the show, said, “If I can’t be open about my sexuality with my daughter, how will she ever be able to be comfortable with it and claim it as her own?”
Amy Raymond, who has a 14-year-old stepdaughter, added, “It’s important she remember that her vagina belongs to her and she decides who to share it with.”
The 90-minute performances include a piece at the end called “Over-It.” This is a monologue about being over it, that is, no longer ruled by past experiences of sexual abuse or mistreatment.
This year’s performance is titled “For My Sisters in Portaprincebukavuneworleans,” focusing on Haiti, Bukavu (Democratic Republic of the Congo) and New Orleans.
Each show will include an auction and raffles. Wine and snacks will be on sale, including cookies and chocolate vaginas. Afterward, there will be “talk-backs,” time for discussion and questions from the audience.
“The Vagina Monologues “was first performed in New York City in 1996. In 1998, Ensler and others launched V-Day, a global nonprofit movement, which has raised more than $75 million for women’s anti-violence groups through proceeds from the play.
A recurring theme throughout the monologues (read by various women) is that the vagina is a tool of female empowerment. In 1998, the purpose changed from celebration to a movement to stop violence against women.
Each year, a new monologue is added to highlight current issues around the globe, i.e. women in Afghanistan under the Taliban rule, called “Under the Burqa.”
Another show, “A Memory, A Monologue, A Rant and a Prayer,” will be performed Saturday night. It includes monologues taken from authors such as Edward Albee and Maya Angelou.
City of Joy, founded by Ensler, is a revolutionary community for women who are survivors of gender violence, in Bukavu, in the Democratic Republic of Congo. It has just celebrated the graduation of its pilot class.
These women, who survived brutal rapes, learned leadership skills, sex education and self-defense, also participating in group therapy and dance. (A study reported that 48 women and girls are raped per hour in the Congo.)
Performances at The Spot, 116 W. Branch St., in Arroyo Grande, start at 8 p.m. Doors open at 7:15 p.m.
Friday’s performance of “The Vagina Monologues” is sold out, but tickets are available for Saturday’s show of “A Memory, A Monologue, A Rant and a Prayer.” “The Vagina Monologues” will also be performed Tuesday. Tickets are $15 each.
Proceeds go to Sexual Assault Recovery and Prevention of San Luis Obispo County.
To buy tickets, call or send a text message to Kelli Howard at 704-9413 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Gayle Cuddy and Cynthia Lambert write the South County Beat column on alternating Wednesdays. Reach Cuddy at 489-1026 or email@example.com.