Students stage York’s second production of The Vagina Monologues

This year's cast rehearses in the new venue, the Underground bar

For the second year in a row, York students are staging Eve Ensler’s award-winning play The Vagina Monologues to raise money for two women’s causes.

This year's cast rehearses in the new venue, the Underground barSince auditions in December, 16 cast members have been rehearsing for the three-day run March 29 to 31 in the Underground bar.

This year’s cast rehearses in the new venue, the Underground bar

Last year’s production raised $5,000 for the North York Women’s Shelter and $500 for the Women and Girls of Haiti. This year, the group V-Day at York University, which is producing the play, aims to double that amount for the same causes.

“This is about much more than a play,” says Stephanie Gundert, one of three directors of this year’s production at York. “It’s raising money to help end violence against women, starting a long overdue conversation at York about women’s safety and bringing together a diverse group of women to talk about issues which are more important now than ever.”

The Vagina Monologues was first performed in 1996 and is based on American playwright Eve Ensler’s interviews with over 200 women, exploring themes such as sex, rape, love and birth. In 1998, Ensler founded V-Day, now a global movement to end violence against women and girls by raising Last year's cast seen rehearsing for the inaugural show in a lecture hallfunds and awareness through benefit concerts of The Vagina Monologues.

Last year’s cast seen rehearsing for the inaugural show in a lecture hall

York’s production is one of thousands staged every year around the globe. Women clamour to participate and there was such a big turnout for auditions in December that directors decided to choose a cast that had never acted in the production before, said Brittany Ross-Fichtner, one of three producers.  “We wanted to give everybody a chance.”

Ross-Fichtner and co-producers Kathleen McMillan and Marlene Mendonca directed and produced York’s first production of The Vagina Monologues last year. All are graduate students in theatre who had been involved in productions at other schools.

Every production is different. Three directors – chosen from last year’s cast – and a whole new cast are bringing different interpretations to the monologues and “breathing new life into the script,” says Ross-Fichtner.

The venue has changed from a sterile lecture hall to the Underground bar, where the atmosphere will be “more fun, more social.” The audience will sit at tables and be able to order drinks before the show.

After each show this year, the cast will come out for a “talk back” with the audience. “We want to encourage people to stay and have a drink with us and ask them what they thought of the show,” says Ross-Fichtner. Audiences often react very emotionally to the show, she says, and last year they didn’t have a chance to discuss their reactions with actors.

How do they plan to raise double the funds this year? Ticket prices are up $5. And they are selling merchandise – T-shirts, buttons and chocolate lollipops featuring – you guessed it – the vagina symbol, as well as underpants with an image of a uterus on the front.

The show runs March 29, 30 and 31 at 8pm at the Underground bar in York’s Student Centre.

Tickets are $15 in advance online; $20 at the door; $12 per person for groups of eight or more. Buy a $50 sponsorship ticket and get reserved seating, a signed program and a V-Day T-shirt.