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V is for victory

Wren Wertin
Special to the DailyLynda Gustafson is the local celebrity performing in "The Vagina Monologues" at the Vilar Center this Tuesday and Wednesday.
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Until Eve Ensler’s “The Vagina Monologues” made their debut in 1996, vagina was a word saved for feminist literature discussions, doctor’s offices and self-help groups. Now, it’s bandied about on the radio, over dinner, during intermission – people are talking about vaginas. “The Vagina Monologues” are being performed at the Vilar Center Tuesday and Wednesday.

Ensler wrote the play, which is performed by three women atop bar stools. The stage is stark, the dress is red, white and black, the feet are bare. There’s nothing in either costume or scenery to separate the audience from the players. The program is raw.

Based on her interviews with more than 200 women, Ensler created several monologues. Some are funny, some poignant, some downright sad. All connect to the crowd in a real way.

“The Vagina Monologues” were performed in Aspen last November, with Starla Benford, Kristen Lee Kelly and Shawn Colvin. The evening opened with a hearty greeting to all of the daring penises who were willing to sit through the 90-minute barrage of the v word. The women in the crowd, some dripping furs and diamonds, other sporting fleece and beanies, showed their support of the men with catcalls and clapping. There was an abundance of estrogen-powered raucousness. When you attend the monologues, you don’t just hear about vaginas; you’re asked to celebrate them.

“I’ll bet you’re worried,” sang Benford, with a sly look. “I was worried, too. I was worried about vaginas. I was worried about vaginas, and even more worried that we don’t think about them. There’s so much darkness and secrecy surrounding them, like the Bermuda triangle. Nobody ever reports back from there.”

As the three women went on to illustrate from their perches, vaginas are sources of unlimited power and unlimited pain. They’re vulnerable, hungry, hopeful, sensitive. They have names – lots of names, some of which are unprintable. They make some women moan and cry; some women don’t want to talk about down there. Why would you even ask?

When “The Vagina Monologues” roll into town, they only come with two players. The third is usually a local celebrity. TV 8’s own Lynda Gustafson will be occupying the third stool at the Vilar performance.

“I’m so nervous,” said Gustafson. “One of the reasons I got into television was because I was shy talking in front of people.”

Instead of speaking to a camera, she’ll be performing for 450 avid audience members. To stack the odds in her favor, 30 of her close friends will be in attendance.

Talking at length about the v word doesn’t bother Gustafson – it’s some of the others in the “My Angry Vagina” segment that have her pausing. The mother of two, she’s been unable to rehearse in earnest until both kids are snug in their beds. Three-year-olds will absorb the darndest things.

“I’m excited about being a part of this,” she said. “It’s certainly going to be a fabulous experience to be a part of it. I never pictured myself doing this at all.”

She’ll also be performing “Bob – He Likes to Look at It” and “The Birth,” which has an uncanny effect on mothers across the board.

“It’s a really powerful one,” said Gustafson. “I hope that I can do it justice by reading it. It’s a great description of the birthing process.”

Actresses Joyce Lee and Gretchen Lee Krich will be with her on stage, portraying everything from a female dominatrix to a scared little girl.

The performance goes quickly, staged without an intermission. Some reviewers – male, as it happens –have disliked the fact they use the v word so much (128 times in one show, according to Newsweek). And it’s certainly a barrage of the word; but unlike some performances, the show doesn’t meander from topic to topic. The subject is announced and explored. There is no deviation – vaginas rule the show. There’s no need to be worried. You have one or you don’t, but all can laugh and cry.


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