China Daily 12-31-2010
In Touch with Women
The Vagina Monologues is an ongoing feminist work and a life-changing experience for audiences.
The Vagina Monologues is controversial due to its no-holds-barred discussion of a woman's body and female identity. The feminist work, which has been performed in more than 130 countries and in at least 45 languages, consists of monologues related to the vagina, referring to love, sex, rape, menstruation, orgasm and birth.
The American playwright and performer Eve Ensler wrote the play in 1996 and adds new monologues to the work every year.
The play was based on her interviews with more than 200 women of different ages, races, occupations and educational backgrounds, about their views on sex, relationships and violence against women.
Director Wang Chong produced the first commercial and only authorized version in the Chinese mainland in 2009, and it will return to Beijing in January.
The original 20 performances were sold out, in Beijing, Shanghai, and Shenzhen.
Wang bought the copyright of the play for staging on the Chinese mainland and also took part in the V-Day campaign, which Ensler started to prevent violence against women. The "V" stands for Victory, Valentine and Vagina.
"In this male-dominated society, females are a vulnerable group. Women are often supporting roles on stage, but this play is an exception," Wang says.
"Women's images are defined by men via the mass media. Those who do not match the standard can only turn to cosmetic surgery, weight-losing methods or abase themselves," Wang says.
Wang says it is time for women to redefine their bodies and identities.
"The Chinese are ashamed to talk about sex, which is an important part of being human. The play is like an artistic sex education," Wang says.
One of the leading actresses, Tong Meng, couldn't agree more.
"My acting in the play is like a textbook. And I believe middle-aged audiences have a much deeper understanding of life," she says.
The 22-year-old struggled for about two weeks before accepting the role, as she knew her parents and childhood friends in Shenzhen would see the play, in November.
One of her roles is that of a prostitute who only services females. Tong was reluctant to rehearse a five-minute scene that features her moaning and groaning as if she is having sex.
"It was so challenging and embarrassing. But I was not afraid the moment I saw the audience applauding. It's actually a comedy scene," she says.
"My parents agreed that it was an inspirational play, which encourages women to love and protect themselves," she says.
The director Wang is also planning to put on stage versions of the play in Cantonese and English, in 2011.