6th Time IS a Charm

TVM_1 VM 2014 lucy,Shelly,silkia,Sj baptized bows2One would think that by the 6th time you’ve directed  a show, you are DONE with it. That’s what I thought the 4th and 5th time I directed Eve Ensler’s The Vagina Monologues for Radford University. That was not the case with this year’s production. Maybe because this year’s script contains 3 new pieces, which makes it a different challenge and more meaningful? Maybe it’s this year’s cast? Or maybe it’s just taken me this long to fully understand the depth of how  The Vagina Monologues has potential to change one’s course and impact lives in a positive way.

Maybe it’s because a few months ago a former cast member (or “Vagina” as I am want to call my cast members), Dr. Liz Altieri told me the following story. She had been to a local elementary school to observe a student teacher and as she was leaving a school secretary, a women in her middle ages said, “Excuse me!”

Liz turned and said, “Yes?”

The woman whispered, “Were you in The Vagina Monologues at Radford University?”IMG_281653248016196

“Indeed I was”, replied Liz.

The woman then proceeded to tell Liz the profound impact the show had on her, how she had brought friends to see it, how she went to see it more than once. Liz was moved as she was telling me this story—and truly, it was this event that opened my eyes ever more to see the power of this special piece. I’ve heard from other professors at RU, “Why do they keep doing the same thing?!” I’ll tell you why:

The show is always different because there is always at least one new piece and new cast.

Because every 107 seconds, another American is sexually assaulted *.

Because 1 in 3 women will be sexually assaulted in her lifetime **.

Because perpetrators of sexual violence largely go unscathed or held responsible or  punished while their victims’ lives are turned upside down often for a lifetime.

Because those pushed to the margins of society due to race, culture, sexual or gender orientation are maligned, unheard, disregarded, beaten, and made to feel like pariahs of society.20150324_214458

Because I want my daughter to never feel she has to apologize for saying “NO”, or feel like a second class citizen.

Because I want my son to be a vagina friendly male, and to understand that “male privilege” is a cultural norm, and not the way it has to be or should be. And since he has been helping with the show since he was 12, I can safely assert he is a vagina friendly male, and an advocate for not only women’s rights, for the rights of all who are pushed to the margins.

Because I want to open the eyes of teenage girls and boys to the fact that they can make a difference by being the difference.

I’ve seen audience members moved and cast members lives’ changed. I’m so proud to have been a part of the legacy of V-Day. I am thankful to Dr. Michele Ren and Dr. Moira Baker for trusting me with this piece year after year, for supporting it, for going through the pain of dealing with the academic red tape of scheduling, promotion, advocacy of a good cause. You would think that wouldn’t be an issue. I am thankful to my minister and church, Rev. David Rose and Grace Episcopal in Radford, VA for providing us with rehearsal space. Grateful to Brenna Bowyer, a wonderful past Vagina and current Stage Manager who has gone above and beyond the call of duty.  And finally, to all the current and past Vaginas from all the VDay at RU productions; you have graced and enhanced my life in so many ways. You are lovely, you are brave, you are fierce. I love you all so much.


[photos from various productions of The Vagina Monologues  at Radford University]

* Rape, Abuse, Incest, National Network , www.rainn.org

**George Mason University, Worldwide Sexual Assault Statistics, 2005

On Being An Artist Today

There are a few of us, still trying to hang on, fingers gripped on a rickety gutter pulling away from a multi-story neglected house. Clinging not because of a dream, or some need for attention, but because of a true, gut centered calling. A nagging, divinely sent provocation that art is necessary despite what the world tells us. We put up with condescension from those less trained and younger than us, we deal with disregard, we pay dues long after we should have been allowed in the club, we work for less than our training, certifications, degrees should demand.

We do it not for glory, fame, or recognition even.

We do it because if we don’t, then it’s one less voice heard, one less line written.

One less viewpoint illustrated, danced, or sculpted.

We artists are a tribe that is under the threat of extinction.

We are misunderstood, not valued, often maligned.

Nonetheless, we are a scrappy, tough lot, and by virtue of what we have to face, possess admirable survival skills.

But we are tired, and vulnerable, and because of the sensitivity necessary to make art—worn down, and could use some allies.

We are susceptible to many threats; economic, health care availability/affordability,

a lack of creative home/incubators. . .

but nothing is more threatening than the devaluing of art in our society.

What does it look like? It looks like the first thing to be cut from a school budget. It looks and sounds like background music. It sounds like “Ok, I’ll play for free”. It looks like the illegal copying of books, plays, poems, art.

It’s the illegal recording of music, plays, film.

It’s not being paid because your service is perceived as a hobby, not a vocation.

And it’s the artist who agrees to work for free or for less than they are worth,  thus joining in a perpetual cycle of devaluation.

Imagine a world without art. Blank walls. Empty books. Silent cafes. Nothing coming from a radio, ipod or tv but a droning voice with news or InfoTainment. No theatre. No school plays. No marching bands. No different drum beat to march to. No macaroni art or baby plaster hand. No Ode for Joy. No dancing. No poetry. No sculpture. No graffiti. No metaphor.

We are on the verge.

We don’t encourage our children to go into the arts. Why should we encourage economic ruin? I hear it all the time….

“Will my child make a living? “


“Will my child be happy and fulfill their calling?”

The problem isn’t if your child will make a living. The problem is that this world, our society devalues art.

It’s not time for a renaissance. It’s time for a revolution.

What are you going to do about?

The Vagina Monologues. Round 4

Current project:

Directing Eve Ensler’s The Vagina Monologues for Women’s Studies at Radford University; show dates March 27 and 28 at 6pm, and March 30 at 2pm in the Hurlburt Auditorium (The Bonnie) at Radford University.

This is my 4th time working with a cast of vaginas that span generations, occupations, experience on stage, and are all fabulous. It’s always a creative challenge to make the production fresh, but when you have new folks to work with, the life experience and personalities they bring with them make it not as difficult as you think, and certainly not impossible.

You don’t have to go to the V-Day Organization’s website to sense the frustration of Ensler being 15 years down the road with this project and not much closer to ending rape.  However, she is not without hope for moving forward, or for appreciation of the many goals reached and victories won, sentiments she expresses in a video for this year’s organizers and activists.  She has labelled this year’s efforts One Billion Rising. Every year Eve adds a new spotlight monologue which is meant to indeed point a light on a particular area of concern. This year it is the statistic of one billion women having been raped IN THE WORLD. She has not only written a new piece, the show includes a 3 minute film titled One Billion Rising which is to be shown as part of the production and which is, I feel, an effective  punch in the gut of awareness. There is no sugary frosting on this message. Women are OVER IT. Which is another piece she has written that I have chosen to include.

I am grateful for the trust that Women’s Studies at RU has put in me to continue to work on this piece. I am grateful that over the years we have been able to raise approximately $3000 in donations to help with the good work that the Women’s Resource Center of Radford does.  I begin to ponder the ways in which this involvement has enhanced my life, made it richer, made me grow…. but I guess the most profound effect that comes to mind is that every year I have directed the show, my son and my daughter have seen it
since they were in puberty, and our conversations and awareness continue and grow as they have grown. I am grateful to see how my son is becoming a young man that is sensitive, caring, respectful, and admiring of women. I am delighted to see my daughter be someone who doesn’t take shit, is confident, not afraid to say no, and is discerning to say yes.

I am rising because we have come so far, and have still so far to go.

For tickets (free, but we recommend reservations.) Donations will be accepted at the door for The Women’s Resource Center of Radford

Poster Draft 5