Vagina Monologues coming to Cedar Rapids stages

Play will raise funds for local nonprofits

Erin Owen

Melissa Payne (left) and Jo Linda Derrick rehearse Sunday for an upcoming performance of “The Vagina Monologues” at Peoples Church Unitarian Universalist in Cedar Rapids. Derrick and Payne are one of two mother-daughter pairings performing together in the production.
Erin Owen Melissa Payne (left) and Jo Linda Derrick rehearse Sunday for an upcoming performance of “The Vagina Monologues” at Peoples Church Unitarian Universalist in Cedar Rapids. Derrick and Payne are one of two mother-daughter pairings performing together in the production.

A group of Eastern Iowa women are coming together to present “The Vagina Monologues,” a play that brings attention to women’s sexuality and social stigmas surrounding rape and abuse.

Producer Erin Owen said though the show is over 20 years old, the themes it addresses are as relevant today as they were when it debuted. And as the #MeToo movement draws attention to sexual harassment in the workplace, many of the topics it discusses are front and center in the news.

In fact, Owen said that is part of what spurred her to stage the show, along with a desire to expose a new generation to the production.

“Giving women a voice and a platform during this time when people are trying to take away their reproductive rights and assaulting their bodies is important,” she said.

“The Vagina Monologues,” by Eve Ensler, was first staged in New York City in the 1990s and has since been performed thousands of times around the world. The Cedar Rapids productions, which will be held Feb. 16 and 17 at Raygun and Peoples United Unitarian Universalist, involve more than 20 women, who will read different stories. At the end of the shows, the actors will present a piece called “Over It,” also by Ensler.

“It’s my favorite part. It really speaks to #MeToo and the Women’s March,” Owen said.

This year marks the 20th year anniversary of the founding of V-Day, a campaign Ensler founded in 1998 to raise awareness and money to end violence against women and girls.

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In that spirit, 90 percent of the proceeds from the Cedar Rapids shows will be donated to Monsoon United Asian Women of Iowa and Nisaa African Family Services, which both have offices in Des Moines and Iowa City. Monsoon serves victims and survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault in Asian and Pacific Islander communities in Iowa, while Nisaa’s mission focuses on ending domestic violence and sexual assault in African immigrant and refugee communities. Both offer culturally specific and multilingual assistance and programming.

“I wanted to help organizations that aren’t as well-known and maybe help some groups people don’t donate to as often,” Owen said. “Intersectionality in feminism, making feminism inclusive, is important. We’ve invited both of them to have tables at the events and to participate in the last piece in the show.”

She said she wants everyone to feel welcome at the performance. Her goal is to continue having performances in future years.

“I would encourage people to come out with an open mind. It’s education, it’s heartwarming, and it’s great to see your neighbors and friends getting up on stage to be part of this,” she said. “Hopefully we can reach enough people to organize this next year, too.”

If you go

• What: The Vagina Monologues

• When and where: 7 p.m. Feb. 16 at Raygun, 1028 Third St. SE, Suite 2, Cedar Rapids; and 7 p.m. Feb. 17 at Peoples Church Unitarian Universalist, 4980 Gordon Ave. NW, Cedar Rapids

• Cost: $20 students, $25 general admission; tickets available at the venues

l Comments: (319) 398-8339; alison.gowans@thegazette.com

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