Naughty Bits

It's just a word, right?

Fair warning: We're about to burn something into your brain that will stick with you for the rest of the day. First, start humming the Beach Boys' classic, "California Girls." You know, "The West Coast has the sunshine, and the girls all look so tan." Got it? Now try to set the words to the first piece in Eve Ensler's about-to-be-classic The Vagina Monologues to the same tune. Sorta like this: "In Westchester, it's a pooki. In New Jersey, it's a twat. In Great Neck, they call it a pussycat. Mimi in Miami, split knish in Philadelphia, schmende in the Bronx." What a lovely way to pass the time.

Echo Theatre brings back The Vagina Monologues for a one-night stand just two days before Valentine's Day. Founding partner Linda Marie Ford thinks an evening of this lusty, staged reading would make a great, romantic gift, but she admits she's fairly biased--and twisted. She says around her house, her 3-year-old gleefully spouts, "Wah-gina" whenever mom's latest play title comes up. "Hey, it's just a word," she says, echoing what she says was the playwright's intent. The work is based on interviews with women and their frank, funny, poignant, and eye-opening reminiscences on a pretty private body part. Echo Theatre presented The Vagina Monologues in May as part of the Dallas Theater Center's Festival of the Unexpected, and the show is currently running in New York, featuring a revolving door of famous actresses in various parts.

"When we were onstage last summer," Ford says, "we'd see the women in the audience nodding. And the men with them were saying, 'Really?' They were hearing stuff they didn't know. It's a night out for men, too."

This year's reading at Theatre Three is part of a grassroots, global effort called V-Day that coincides with Valentine's Day each year and raises money for groups whose mission is to end rape, battery, incest, and genital mutilation around the world. Ford says proceeds from the $10 ticket price will benefit local organizations with the same purpose. "We always give something to The Family Place, for instance," she says.

The vignettes in The Vagina Monologues run the gamut of emotions, Ford says, with commentary on childbirth that "makes us weep" and a "heartbreaker" of a piece written for the women of Bosnia. Happily, the sad bits are balanced with heavy doses of humor. "In that first piece," Ford says of the words that seem to go so well with "California Girls," "there are 50 euphemisms for vagina. It's hilarious."

It won't take long to sell out the 230-seat capacity of Theatre Three, Ford says, so the theater troupe is considering adding a 9:30 p.m. show after the 8 p.m. performance. The running time is roughly 60 minutes, and the cast includes Ford, Barbara Bierbriar, Rhonda Blair, Suzy Blaylock, Renee Micheal, and Marlee Ward.

"It's for mature audiences," Ford adds unnecessarily. "Once people get over the shock of it, they enjoy it. I mean, the very first line of the play is 'I bet you're worried.'" We're not worried. We've had a vagina as long as we can remember. Only we called it a pootie. Now we can't get this stupid song out of our heads.

 
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