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Production of 'Vagina Monologues' Will Celebrate Women's Sexuality, Strength

It's been seven years since the Old Dominion University Women's Center staged a production of "The Vagina Monologues," and Joann Bautti-Roche, who joined the center as assistant director in 2009, thought it was time to bring it back.

An episodic play written by Eve Ensler that celebrates women's sexuality and strength through wit and grace, while bringing attention to sexual violence against women, "The Vagina Monologues" debuted in 1996 and has since been staged in venues throughout the world.

The ODU production, which will have three performances - 8 p.m. Feb. 10 and 11 and 2 p.m. Feb. 12 at Chandler Recital Hall in the Diehn Center for the Performing Arts - features three faculty members and 25 students (see photo below). Tickets are $10 per person and are available at the Webb Center information desk.

Bautti-Roche, who previously was involved with a production at Oakland University in Michigan, believes the monologues are empowering for both those who deliver them and those listening in the audience. Now that it is back, she is hopeful that ODU will host the production every year.

"Many women have difficulty saying the word vagina out loud, so that in itself is empowering," said Bautti-Roche, who is co-directing the performance. "And I believe it's very courageous for our faculty members to go on stage. This, in fact, will be the first time on stage for many of the women in the production."

All of the monologues relate in some way to the vagina - for example, through sex, love, rape, birth or orgasm. A recurring theme is the vagina as a tool of female empowerment. ODU's 90-minute production will feature the reading of 18 monologues.

"One of the main reasons why I wanted to bring it back to ODU is that it is so empowering for women to be in the production and for people - both women and men - to actually see the production. It's a positive way for survivors to get involved, and provide a voice to those directly and indirectly affected by sexual violence," said Bautti-Roche.

Both she and her student intern, co-director Elizabeth Warren, were thrilled when more than 50 women - the large majority of them students - came out for rehearsals. All of the faculty members who tried out are in the production: Shana Pribesh (educational foundations and leadership), Jennifer Kidd (teaching and learning) and Robin Ormiston (women's studies). Local writer Janine Latus, the author of "If I Am Missing or Dead," is a member of the production as a guest reader.

"There are strict rules that only women, or those who live their lives as women, can be a part of the cast," Bautti-Roche said. "However, we have welcomed involvement from men on our V-Team, which is a group of volunteers helping in various capacities, including serving as members of the stage crew."

Warren said the rehearsals have been "a wonderful bonding experience" for the participants. "There's just a connection you can feel when some of these women are reading the monologues. You can just feel the emotion in the room."

Bautti-Roche added: "There's a range of emotions that I think people are going to feel when they hear this production, especially if they haven't ever seen one before. You're going to laugh, you're going to cry, you're going to relate to it. You're going to be liberated, feel empowered, be energized. Just leaving the rehearsals, I feel tremendously energized from the power in the room. It's just such an honor and an opportunity to be a part of this production, to be a part of the journey that all of these women take."

Since 1998 "The Vagina Monologues" has been associated with V-Day, a global nonprofit movement that raises money for women's anti-violence organizations. In conjunction with the V-Day's 2012 Spotlight Campaign, 10 percent of the proceeds from the ODU production will go to the Women and Girls of Haiti. The Women's Center was able to choose where the remaining 90 percent of the proceeds will go, and it selected its community partner, Response Sexual Assault Support Services of the YWCA, as the beneficiary.

In her role as ODU's SAFE (Sexual Assault Free Environment) coordinator, Bautti-Roche provides support services to students who have experienced sexual violence. "It's often very difficult for them to continue on with their studies and to achieve their dreams following a sexual assault," she said. "With the right resources and support, women can begin the healing process and reclaim their lives. 'The Vagina Monologues' is a testament to the courage and strength of every woman who has taken and will take the journey from victim to survivor to thriver."

For more information about "The Vagina Monologues" contact the Women's Center at 683-4109 or womenctr@odu.edu, or visit http://www.odu.edu/womenscenter.

This article was posted on: January 30, 2012

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