In the late 1990’s, Charles Isherwood of the New York Times called The Vagina Monologues “probably the most important piece of political theater of the last decade.” For me, it is one of the most important pieces of political theater of my entire life. And I am sure seeing it the way I did for the first time has everything to do with why I feel this way.
In June of 2001, I was invited by my best girlfriend to see the play in a swanky theater in Beverly Hills. Her husband had bought her two tickets as a gift and suggested she take a friend. In other words, not him. I gratefully accepted the invitation as the play had been receiving great buzz and a night out alone with my dear friend was a rare treat for both of us. We were both stay home moms at the time, mothers of eighteen-month-old daughters, and the only conversations we ever seemed to have with one another since the girls had been born revolved around, well, the girls.
Before I tell you the next thing, I want to pause here to tell you my mother had been working as a child protective worker for many years at that point in my life, so I was no stranger to detailed stories of sexual abuse. (Names omitted, of course.) When my friend confided in me after several months of friendship to share that she had been sexually abused as a child – by her father – well, I was very, very sad but not shocked. Her story was remarkably similar to the hundreds of stories my mother had already shared with me.
Just before the play ended that night, I glanced over at my friend. A single tear rolled down her cheek. And this single tear, in turn, made me begin to cry, too. The line that moved her most of all is one I will not share with you here because for those of you who have not yet seen the play, I don’t want to ruin it for you. And for those of you who have seen the play, I would be more than happy to talk with you about this off line any time. But the greater point is this: my friend experienced drama as a means of healing that night, something we have known how to do as a species since at least the time of the ancient Greeks – use theater to heal; so simple, so elegant, so necessary. Eve Ensler’s play picked up a few of the broken pieces in my dear friend’s life that night and put them back together again, back where they belonged. And I got to watch it all happen. Amazing.
This month, Auburn Public Theater we will offer this play for three nights on March 23rd, 24th and 25th. We hope to see you at one of the shows.