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A touchy subject?

Kimberly Nicoletti/Summit Correspondent
Special to the DailyConcerned about the darkness and secrecy surrounding the female essence, the author, Eve Ensler, interviewed more than 200 women literally about their vaginas. The result is an extraordinarily provocative and poignant stage performance that is part stand-up comedy, part concert, part poetry and a highly-praised work of art.
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SILVERTHORNE – When it comes to vaginas, some people get a little touchy.

The Backstage Theatre presents “The Vagina Monologues” for another one-night-only performance Friday at the Silverthorne Pavilion.

But it’s not without controversy.

So far, one offended Backstage Theatre newsletter subscriber called artistic Jeremy Cole to say “Remove me from your mailing list” because of the production. Two others e-mailed Cole with the same request.

The Summit County Chamber of Commerce displayed Cole’s fliers, but it wasn’t without some concern.

“We do have visitors who come in and are offended, and we didn’t want to offend anyone,” said Deana Metz, director of operations. “We definitely got some negative comments the last time. This year, we didn’t hear any comments though.”

When Cole debuted the production in Summit County last August, a former board member of the Backstage Theatre expressed strong disapproval, Cole said.

Despite criticism, August’s one-night show sold out and raised $11,000 for the Backstage Theatre, Cole said.

“For the most part, everyone seemed pretty pleased,” said Maggie Butler, Silverthorne Pavilion coordinator, about the show. “The topic may make some people nervous, but it actually tackles some powerful issues. And the Backstage Theatre does a very tasteful job.”

The naked truth

“The Vagina Monologues” gives voice to all types of feminine sheathlike structures. Some have been raped. Some have just discovered themselves. Some have REALLY discovered themselves. And most like to moan – a dozen different ways – from short, staccato whimpers to long, screaming outbursts.

In “The Vagina Monologues,” playwright Eve Ensler presents a chorus of lusty, outrageous, poignant, brave and completely human stories. She based the play on 200 interviews with a diverse group of women who differed in marital status, sexual orientation, nationality and economic status.

“At first, women were reluctant to talk,” Ensler proclaims on her “Vagina Monologues” Web site. “They were a little shy. But once they got going, you couldn’t stop them.”

And once “The Vagina Monologues” hit the stage, it was a screaming success. It has grown from an off-Broadway hit into an international cultural phenomenon performed in more than 40 countries.

The topic has hit national talk shows, including “Late Show with David Letterman,” where as hard as actress Calista Flockhart tried, she couldn’t persuade Letterman to utter the word “vagina.” Strangely enough, Kathie Lee Gifford and Regis Philbin jumped at the chance to lead their audience in chanting the word – what’s wrong with that picture?

“The title has everyone fearing that it’s some ’70s feminist rant, but it’s more enlightened and gentle than the title would have you believe,” Cole said. “It’s not there to be exploitative or startling.

“This should be a textbook taught in school. By the end, you learn about women’s attitudes, society’s attitude, and its function not just as a sexual thing but as a birth canal. It’s a whole course on female sexuality in one short show.”

Rather than present it in the traditional three-women show format, Cole has employed 11 women to play more than 20 voices.

“I’m really psyched about this version because in Eve Ensler’s performance, she has to play 20-some voices, and even if you’re good at impersonation, you get the same person, or the same three women,” he said. “This is less of a performance piece and more of a communal, or group therapy, session. It’s a more varied view with women from their early 20s to 60s – tall, large, short – all types of different women. It’s almost a documentary piece (saying) “Look at all these experiences women have with the same body part.'”

Within the 16 moans and 136 times “vagina” is said in the show, the monologues talk about a woman who’s not so pleased after her husband makes her shave her pubic hair, a poor girl who was abused but finally has a good sexual experience with a woman, a woman who rages about obstetrics, a grandmother who recalls the beautiful birth of her grandchild, an older women who experiences a juicy orgasm for the first time, a Bosnian woman raped during war and a group of women who reclaim the word “vulva.”

“She (Eve Ensler) doesn’t leave any stone unturned,” Cole said.

The hidden excitement, pain, wisdom, humor and mystery in vaginas unfolds at 7:30 p.m. Friday at the Silverthorne Pavilion. The event begins with cocktails at 6:30 p.m.

Tickets are $30, and proceeds benefit the Backstage Theatre’s fund to build a dressing room at the Breckenridge Theatre. To reserve tickets, call (970) 453-0199.

The show is intended for mature audiences.


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