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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, February 13, 2004

Local luminaries lend talents to a taboo topic

At a rehearsal at the Honolulu Theatre for Youth, performers, from left, Brenda Kwon of Nu'uanu, Grace Alvaro Caligtan of Kalihi, and Joy Harjo of 'Alewa Heights take direction from one of the directors, Kealoha Wong.

Photos by Rebecca Breyer • The Honolulu Advertiser

By Zenaida Serrano Espanol
Advertiser Staff Writer

Tanisha Carmichael of Hickam Air Force Base lets loose during a rehearsal of Eve Ensler's well-known play, in which the vagina speaks through a series of monologues.

'The Vagina Monologues'

8 p.m. Sunday

Hawai'i Theatre


528-0506, hawaiitheatre.com

The cast: Lois-Ann Yamanaka, Nora Okja Keller, Joy Harjo, Brenda Kwon, Selah Hope Geissler, Kasi Nunes, Cocoa Chandelier, Tanisha, Jacquie Yang, Grace Alvaro Caligtan and Jennifer Vo, with music by DJ Primmitiv and Giinko Marischino dancers

'The Menologues'

10 p.m. Sunday-2 a.m. Monday

W Hotel

Free with "Monologues" ticket stub, $5 general admission. For ages 21 and older.


The cast: Kealoha, Intrepid, Seph One, Jeff Gere, DJ Rise Up, Melvin Borja, Travis Thompson and "C," with music by Sisters in Sound and the Rebel Girl Underground celebrating DJ Zita

Joy Harjo could barely say the "c" word without blushing.

At a recent rehearsal, Harjo buried her face with her hands at the thought of having to say it repeatedly, while fellow writers Lois-Ann Yamanaka and Nora Okja Keller giggled uncontrollably.

"When I read through the whole script, I thought, 'Please don't let me have to read this particular monologue,' " Keller said, and laughed.

"I know. I got that part," Harjo said.

The notorious four-letter word is just one of many nicknames used in Eve Ensler's award-winning play "The Vagina Monologues." The three women headline an all-local cast in a special presentation of the show Sunday at the Hawai'i Theatre.

"Basically, what the play is trying to do is to reclaim the word vagina and other words that define the female genitalia, because the vagina has been historically desecrated and humiliated throughout time," said "Monologues" director Kathryn Xian. "So it is an attempt to reclaim it and redefine it on our own terms, as liberated, educated women of the 21st century."

Ten percent of ticket sales from the show will go toward an effort to stop violence against the women and girls of Juarez, Mexico. The event, V-Day Honolulu 2004, is part of the V-Day: Until the Violence Stops Worldwide Campaign.

The rest of the money raised will go to Girl Fest, a nonprofit project headed by the Safe Zone Foundation, said Xian, co-founder of Safe Zone. Proceeds from Girl Fest, which debuts in May, will go to local service groups such as the Domestic Violence Clearinghouse and Child & Family Service.

"What I hope the audience will walk away with is an awareness about Hawai'i, and that the abuse not only is worldwide, but also happens here," Xian said.

The show will also honor V-Day Honolulu's Vagina Warriors, women recognized for their dedication to end violence against women and girls in their communities. They are Puanani Burgess of the Pu'a Foundation; Kathryn Takara, liberal studies professor at the University of Hawai'i; kite surfer Sheldon Plentovich; and Kashawnia Crump of Sisters Offering Support.

Finding women to cast in the play was a matter of turning to connections — friends of friends , Xian said. "Hawai'i is really small," she said. "It's one degree of separation."

Among the first was Yamanaka, Xian's former literary teacher and award-winning author of "Blu's Hanging." She hesitantly signed on with some prodding from Keller, who told her they needed to try something different.

"I was telling Lois, 'You know, we gotta get out of our box,' " Keller said, laughing. "We gotta shake ourselves up every once in a while."

Despite two months of rehearsals, Yamanaka is nervous about the performance.

"I know how to read at a podium, but I don't know how to move on a stage, because I have no training,"

Yamanaka said. "I always flash back to my first reading, when I fainted twice, so this being my first stage performance, I might need to be revived twice."

The play is well worth seeing, Yamanaka added. "The show is so raw, honest and in-your-face."

"The Vagina Monologues" will be followed by a reception party and performance of "The Menologues" at the W Hotel.

"Basically, it's the male perspective of 'The Vagina Monologues,' " said co-director Kealoha Wong. "Sort of like the supplement."

"Menologues" features a cast of eight men covering a variety of topics — in poetry, spoken word and storytelling — such as being a positive male role model and witnessing a mother being abused.

"For both 'The Vagina Monologues' and 'The Menologues,' our goal is to take you through a roller-coaster ride of various emotions, and there are messages laced within those roller-coaster rides," Wong said.

"We hope you walk away with awareness, ... and the inspiration to go and do something."