WHALONSBURG Even though Feb. 14 has come and gone, a group of women are planning on celebrating V-Day. A group of women from towns across the county will perform a staged reading of The Vagina Monologues. The reading takes place for the first time in Essex County at the Whallonsburgh Grange Hall Friday, Feb. 29 and Saturday, March 1 at 7 p.m. The project is one of thousands of performances scheduled around the world of The Vagina Monologues New York-based playwright Eve Enslers human rights work that demands an end to violence against women. The reading will celebrate the 10th anniversary of V-Day, the "V" in which stands for Victory, Valentine and Vagina. With backgrounds ranging from school teacher to community planner, waitress and writer, these women who range from 23 to 60ish in age, are making an artistic effort to call attention to rural domestic and gender violence. Penelope Mace of Elizabethtown has spearheaded the project. Mace, Leigh Bergstrom, Kim Dedam, Rosamond Lincoln, Erin Perkins, Aline Pepe, Angel Marvin and Kathy Rechia will perform. Mace explained the show was special because it grew out of the personal experiences and struggles of many women from all groups in society older, younger, all races and income levels, gay and straight. The monologues themselves, while written by Eve Ensler, came out of her vagina interviews and workshops that she conducted all over the U.S. and then in other parts of the world. Women talked about their lives, their relationships, their triumphs and feelings about their own bodies and their identities as women, said Mace. Mace said the play featured very frank talk about women's bodies and has some references to sex both straight and gay, as well as verbal references to male and female body parts. The play is composed of 22 monologues drawn from women of all ages and walks of life, describing moments of self-discovery, emergence, passion and terror in a world that shuns the word vagina. Recchia, who is performing readings as a 72-year-old ethnic woman, and an upper-class British woman in her forties, said The Vagina Monologues was not the type of performance she naturally gravitated toward. Originally, she considered reading the script more from the political aspect of helping to stop violence against women and girls rather than the performance aspect. But since rehearsals began, she has become enamored of the performance aspect. Its a lot different to read these words on the page and hear them brought to life by other women, much more powerful and moving and the stories are actually more about empowerment and becoming comfortable with, and talking more about, intimate parts of the body, said Recchia. Recchia said audience members might come out of curiosity from the controversy surrounding the play. I think curiosity will motivate some and thats fine, but I think folks should come prepared for the cathartic experience of sharing these very personal, dramatic and moving womens stories, said Recchia. V-Day and Ensler allow royalty-free use of the script for two shows only, with proceeds to benefit local efforts to stop domestic violence. Mace said she hoped the reading would raise awareness of violence against girls and women, and money to prevent such crimes. STOP Domestic Violence/BHSN, based in Westport, which operates a local crisis hotline and shelter for abused women and their children, is beneficiary of both Essex County shows. Ten percent of proceeds will go to the Women of New Orleans as part of V-Day action efforts worldwide. In 2007, The Vagina Monologues was performed in more than 3,000 venues. V-Day also stages large-scale benefits and produces gatherings, films and campaigns to educate and change social attributes towards violence against women and girls. To learn more about V-Day and its campaigns visit the Web site
. To date, the V-Day organization has raised more than $50 million and educated millions of people about the real issues violence against women raises in communities worldwide. V-Day proceeds have built international educational campaigns, launched the Karama program in the Middle East, reopened women's shelters, and funded more than 5,000 community-based anti-violence programs. Tickets to the performance at the Whallonsburgh Grange Hall are $10 and may be purchased in advance through the Essex County Sexual Assault Support Services Office by calling 873-2039. Tickets will also be available at the door.