The Vagina Monologues are Coming to Shanghai
Eve Ensler's celebrated play—The Vagina Monologues —is coming to Shanghai. First produced in 1996 and first performed on off-Broadway's Westside Theater and London's West End, the play went on to become a global phenomenon. Each monologue is one woman's story, relating the vagina to sex, love, rape, menstruation, birth and other themes and issues in her life. Translated into at least 45 languages and staged in 120 countries to date, the play is performed as a benefit production around the world as a way to raise money for V-Day, an organization and movement that Ensler founded to help end violence against women.
We talked with Wang Chong, director of the Shanghai production, about the process of bringing The Vagina Monologues to Shanghai. Wang has had a longstanding interest in experimental and political theater and his group, the Théatre du Rêve Expérimental, brings a careful attention and regard for the original text—they will perform The Vagina Monologues in its entirety, without the alterations and additional monologues that both Ensler and others have added over the years. However, there was still the problem of translation: "I thought the two previous translations available on the internet were not accurate and were not faithful to the original play. They added monologues to the original ones which might be a good thing for the theater but perhaps not that respectful to the author," said Wang. So he decided to retranslate the script and make it as close as possible to the original—as well as pay royalties to its author.
Wang is also excited about his cast: "We have three actresses, according to the play, with one from mainland China, one from Taiwan, and one naturalized US citizen, so we have an international cast. And they've brought some of their own experiences about their vaginas into the non-textual aspects of the performance and possess their own understanding of these roles and characters."
When asked what he hopes audiences will get from these performances, Wang replies that he hopes that women take from this play what the author originally intended: that they can choose to be as sexual, political or motherly as they want, and that while women's roles in society are often defined by males, this play should help women be more free of social restrictions and choose their own path. He also thinks it is important for men to see this show: "I highly recommend male audience to see this show because really finding a vagina is about really finding a female and at the same time when you know what a female is you know what a male is. It's about both sexes."
The Vagina Monologues has been banned before in Shanghai, though smaller, more "underground" performances have been held in Wuhan and Guangdong, among other places. Wang Chong's group has already staged TVM in Beijing, where it seems to have been a hit.
For Shanghai there will be three benefit performances. 90 percent of all profits will go towards Maple Women's Psychological Counseling Center, a Beijing-based independent NGO that Wang chose because he believes that independent NGOs in China don't always get official support from the government or other institutions. The remaining ten percent of profits will benefit the V-Day campaign in the United States.