01.03 The Vagina Monologues to return to Bijou Cinema

In the early 1990’s, feminist Eve Ensler started to interview women about their vaginas and writing the stories down. These stories were the basis of the highly successful The Vagina Monologues which have been performed around the country, including in Worcester where the play was a sold-out success at the Bijou Cinema in 2002.

The Bijou, along with the Worcester Poetry Project in conjunction with Projective Verse, will offer the Monologues again this year. Kinkos will provide sponsorship. On Friday, February 14 at 7:30 p.m., 18 women will perform the play by Ensler at the Bijou. The performance will benefit local charities that combat the violence against women, such as Abby’s House, Faith House, and the Worcester Clothesline Project.

Sou MacMillan, coordinator of both the 2002 and 2003 local productions, says, “There were differences in the scripts last year and there may be this year as well, as well as a new addition to the Monologues from Ensler herself.”

MacMillan says the addition is titled, “The Crooked Braid”. There will also be two, home-written monologues, which will project the theme of what our community would look like if the violence against women and girls stopped.

The Monologues will also be performed at The College of the Holy Cross by students sometime this spring. There was a similar performance at Clark University last February.

Monologues creator Ensler suffered both physical and mental abuse. As she began the process of collecting interviews and collaborating with hundreds of women, she began to take the issue seriously with the help of her partner, Ariel Orr Jordan.

Ensler began to talk to older women, young women, married women, single women, lesbians, college professors, actors, corporate professionals, sex workers, African American women, Hispanic women, Native American women, Caucasian women, Jewish women.

Ensler says in her book The Vagina Monologues, “Women secretly love to talk about their vaginas. They get very excited, mainly because no one has ever asked them before.” Ensler also says that the Monologues are close to “verbatim interviews,” however some do start as composite interviews. Every interviewee was asked to same questions as well as asked to comment on topics.

The Monologues are composed of issues such as hair, masturbation, menstruation, sexual abuse in relevance to culture and individuality, questions such as “if your vagina got dressed, what would it wear and if your vagina could talk, what would it say, in two words”, as well as factual information.

The Monologues began to spread across the country as Ensler took center stage and shared the stories that had touched her. During the production of the play, Ensler began to focus on stopping violence towards women. She says, “The desecration of women indicated the failure of human beings to honor and protect the life and that this failing would, if we did not correct it, be the end of us all. When you rape, beat, maim, mutilate, burn, bury, and terrorize women, you destroy the essential life energy on the planet.”

In 1997, Ensler met with a group of activist women and founded V-Day. On February 14, 1998 the first V-Day was brought to life in New York City at the Hammerstein Ballroom.

Whoopi Goldberg, Susan Sarandon, Glenn Close, Winona Ryder, Marisa Tomei, Shirley Knight, Lois Smith, Kathy Najimy, Calista Flockheart, Lily Tomlin, Hazelle Goodman, Margaret Cho, Hannah Ensler-Rivel, BETTY, Klezmer Women, Ulali, Phoebe Snow, Gloria Steinem, Soraya Mire, and Rosie Perez all joined together to perform The Vagina Monologues and launch the V-Day movement.

The importance of getting the words of these women out has grown across communities nationwide and has inspired women to take the stage and celebrate their voices within.


01.03 Grooving with Phish

Understanding the mind of a Phish fan

A few weeks back I had this simple exchange with a friend of mine.

Friend: “Phish is coming!”

Me: “So?”

What followed was a mixture of swearing about my “idiocy” and different variations of the strong declaration, “Phish is the greatest band ever!”

Definitely a strong argument, but I was still not convinced.

The entire phenomenon of Phish — a band of jazzy, regular looking guys who have a constant carnival of fans accompanying them around the country — was just beyond me. I couldn’t understand what made a band with no breakthrough albums (that I knew of at least) special. Even more perplexing were those nomads who follow Phish from coast to coast. How can somebody follow a music act around the country? Doesn’t it get boring? Don’t these people have to go to school or work?

I went to my friend Tom for answers. Every time I was in his car he was playing Phish, so he had to know something about them.

The funny thing about Tom, though, is that he does not look the part of a Phish fan. No tie-dye T-shirts, no dread-locks, no Dead-head stickers, and nothing else with a hyphen.

“The stereotype comes from, when you go to shows, you see those people everywhere,” Tom told me. “For them, Phish is a way of life and the stereotype look has some truth…Most fans are your average looking high school or college student who breaks out a tie-dye or Phish shirt and goes to the show.”

So I was at least in the correct demographic. But I still wanted to know how Phish fans survived. Tom explained that they “work in the ‘off season’ to make enough money to buy up the next tour and supplies for the road. Those are the people you often see selling food and other paraphernalia in the parking lots before and after the show…and those are the people who catch your eye and are pretty interesting.”

Still, I wondered, what is it about Phish that inspires such devotion?

“Phish is not a band you hear one song and love. They are not a radio band. They do not have radio songs. They have no image. They do play really bad shows. There is no key figure.” Tom tried to explain.

“No band is more free,” Tom continued, warming to his subject with a gleam of splendor. “Phish has toured for seventeen years straight before taking a two year hiatus, all the while they never had a set list. They walk on stage and just play. It is not a preplanned out show. You know, ACDC always closes with ‘For Those About to Rock,’ or Springsteen will always play ‘Born to Run.’”

With Phish, Tom went on, “All you do is listen and groove.”


Tom elaborated for my non-hip self: “One person starts a groove, the next adds one small thing, then the next, and they go around in circles for hours — and this drill is what Phish is all about…the greatness comes from everyone being part of the whole. And when you are at a show, you are part of that.”

So Phish is a band that is “high” on fan interaction. “I would say that a Phish fan thinks there is something magical about the music and this, whether at a college or on the road, creates a sense of community and kinship, like two people let into a secret.” Tom was getting philosophical.

I think that I was getting the point, though. I didn’t necessarily need to dress the part. I didn’t need to drop everything in my life. I just had to go. Tom agreed. Seeing them live is the best thing to do if I want to know and understand the whole Phish phenomenon.

So Phish is coming to the Worcester Centrum at the end of February. I think I’ll have to see them now. The tie-dye. The freedom. The grooving. So many people just can’t be wrong.