By James Dungeon
[Editor’s note: The following interview was culled from conversations between the reporter and Heidi Hampton, director of “The Vagina Monologues,” which runs 7:30 p.m. Feb. 23 & 24 at the ERAU Davis Learning Center, 3700 Willow Creek Road, $12-$15. Buy tickets online at VMPrescott.BPT.Me. All proceeds benefit Prescott Area Shelter Services. A 4AM Productions event.]
What are “The Vagina Monologues”?
It’s a collection of stories that Eve Ensler put together 20 years ago. She’d interviewed these women who run the gamut: rape survivors, incest survivors, homeless women, sex workers, you name it. Originally she did a collection of 12 monologues as a one-woman show. Now, women read different scripts and each year a new monologue gets put into the rotation. … Some people think it’s just a bunch of women talking about their vaginas. Believe it or not, there’s a little bit more to it than that. Some of the pieces are monologues of particular women’s stories, and others are made up from several different women.
How did you end up staging this in Prescott?
I’ve been with the “Monologues” for 10 years now. This is my first year in Prescott. I moved here about a year ago to help take care of my parents, who are 91. In the past, I found out, “The Vagina Monologues” were done by Prescott College and Embry-Riddle (Aeronautical University), but it’s been a couple of years. I thought it’d be really cool to do them again. I met John (Duncan, of 4AM Productions, producer of the show) while I was in “5 Lesbians Eating a Quiche.” I asked him to come to rehearsals early and basically ambushed him. He said he was in, so from that point on, it was full steam ahead. … Embry-Riddle’s Women’s and Diversity Center said they’d love to partner with us and gave us the Davis Learning Center for free, as well as rehearsal space. We ended up partnering with Maria Lynam of the Women’s March on Prescott and were there (Jan. 20) and handed out flyers and sold tickets and T-shirts.
What’s it like directing “The Vagina Monologues” in Prescott?
Wowee wow. It’s kind of like herding feral cats. Everybody’s got different work schedules and some people have kids who have things going on, so it’s hard to make rehearsal time. Most performers can only come in one day a week, but I end up having rehearsals five days a week to make it work. We’re talking 25 women and gentlemen by the way; we have two trans men who are in the cast this year, and it’s an extremely diverse group. There are people who’ve never been on stage before, who’ve never picked up a script, but who believe in this. About half of the cast, I’d say, is seasoned actresses and actors. I try not to lead too much as a director. I want each person to find something of themselves in the monologue, but also to do justice to the woman’s or women’s story. … For me, the high points come on a daily basis. I’ll be telling someone about the monologues and I just get chills. It’s a passion project for me, and it hits really close to home as I’m a domestic abuse survivor. I refuse to say “victim” because that’s not the right word; we’re survivors. I’m sure I’ll be in complete tears the opening and closing nights.
Not to be too leading, but why is this a particularly important or salient show?
Not to mention any names, but there seem to be quite a few men of power in Hollywood, gentlemen who’ve gotten into some deep water with workplace harassment, violence, you-name-it. “The Vagina Monologues” are about standing up and fighting. We want equality and safety for women and children. We don’t want hate crimes. That’s why we do “The Vagina Monologues.” … I recently gave a speech to the Democratic Women of the Prescott Area during a luncheon and I stressed something I’d like to repeat. This is not a show about me; it’s about the women who are doing the show. And if we can educate or empower just one person to stand up to their boss at work or walk away from an abusive boyfriend or husband — if just one person does that — then the show has done its job. But, you know, obviously we want to reach more than one person. The show is a red flag and maybe we don’t notice red flags — sadly, we’ve been slapped in the face with them time and time again — but maybe this will be the one. I know that “The Vagina Monologues” helped me in my journey and has helped hundreds and thousands of people the past 20 years and will help even more in the next 20.
How did you settle on Prescott Area Shelter Services as the show’s beneficiary?
It’s a good cause. They get every dime, from ticket sales to the silent auction to T-shirt sales — everything. Once we secured the rights to the show, John, who’s my producer and my rock, by the way, approached another group here in town who politely declined. In my 10 years doing this, I’ve never once been turned down, so that was interesting. There are lots of reasons that could’ve happened and I’m not going to speculate. Anyway, I did some research and found PASS. They were excited and recommended that we pick a new group every year. They wanted to share the wealth and the message, and that was really heartening. It’s about having a strong community and having support.
“The Vagina Monologues,” presented by 4AM Productions, runs 7:30 p.m. Feb. 23 & 24 at the ERAU Davis Learning Center, 3700 Willow Creek Road, $12-$15. All proceeds benefit Prescott Area Shelter Services. Buy tickets online at VMPrescott.BPT.Me.
James Dungeon is a figment of his own imagination. And he likes cats. Contact him at JamesDungeonCats@Gmail.Com.