Meet the Cast of V-Day Taconic, Performing ‘The Vagina Monologues’ To Benefit Women’s Prison Association

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V-Day Taconic is a local effort within V-Day’s global One Billion Rising campaign to end violence against women and girls – Taconic being Taconic Correctional Facility, a medium security women’s prison in Bedford Hills, NY. Last week, members of V-Day Taconic held an exclusive performance of The Vagina Monologues for the women at the prison featuring an inclusive cast of formerly incarcerated women, trans actors, professional actresses, and activists.

In this special interview series, meet four of the cast members as they share their thoughts on being a part of V-Day Taconic, what it was like performing in the women’s prison, and what they’re looking forward to in tomorrow’s benefit performance (Friday, May 8th) at Cherry Lane Theatre to benefit the Women’s Prison Association. More on that below!

(If you missed it, check out the interview with two more cast members Briana Packen and Tiffany Rachelle Stewart.)

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Miriam A. Hyman, Actor, Hip Hop MC
Twitter & Instagram: @robynhoodfanz

What motivated you to join the cast of V-Day Taconic?

The first read through. I had initially joined the cast a few weeks prior but I thought I may possibly have to drop out along the way due to a possible acting conflict. However, after the first read through I was totally committed to every aspect of the project from rehearsal to promotion. The resounding collectiveness of the women urged me to stay. They’re voices and vaginas motivated me to want to speak up and against sexual violence towards women and girls.

What expectations did you have about performing at Taconic?

I had really positive expectations. A couple years back I performed in the same exact space with The Public Theater’s Mobile Unit. The production was Richard III. There were some familiar faces and some new. I remembered really high energy the last time I was there. They listened with their ears, eyes and hearts. I honestly didn’t expect anything less. They were such giving spirits before, I looked forward to their positivity and support.

How did the audience respond? Were there any reactions that were surprising?

They had an amazingly positive and honest response to the material. They laughed, they wept, they cringed, they snickered, some held back emotions but ultimately, they shared with each other and us their individual truth.

What was your most memorable moment?

My most memorable moment was looking out at the entire room, inmates, guards, press and actresses, Eve Ensler and all I could see were hearts, love and non judgement. We were just people sharing an experience about an intimate area that we’ve  all encountered at some point in our life either through birth, making love or being taken advantage of.

Why is it important to have a conversation about vaginas in a women’s prison?

Because women need to be educated in a healthy safe way about their bodies. It doesn’t need to be a secret. We must embrace who/what we are and not feel ashamed to express ourselves or to want to inquire about our bodies and their intended functions. Too silence an individual is to silence their power, their urge and need to be pro active. Instead of disregarding vaginas, we must be educated on them and not fearful of their strength.

How might this experience inform your performance at Cherry Lane?

This experience will inform my performance at Cherry Lane in that, I plan to give even more of myself to convey the challenges and delights women face on the daily. My goal with the audience is to assist in bridging the gap with my fellow cast in hopes to uplift the voices of the freed. Those of us able to live in society are caged in a different way. I’d like to engage them in a dialogue and be H.O.T(Honest Open and Truthful) with them and release the latch of fear and inability to speak up and out about sexual violence. Whether  behind bars or not, we live with locks. With this performance, I hope to be a part of offering the key to release!

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Maybe Burke, Director/Choreographer
Twitter & Instagram: @believeinmaybe

What motivated you to join the cast of V-Day Taconic?

Representation has always been very important to me. I have dedicated a large portion of my life to speaking up about my gender identity. Being a non-binary trans feminine person, there aren’t very many groups of women that will let me stand with them and share my side of the story. The ability to see different voices on stage and the possibility for people like me to tell stories is crucial to building awareness and ending discrimination.

What have you learned from other members of cast or the play itself?

I honestly have not spent much time with the cast, but the time that I did spend was electric. I learned what it feels like to be fully included into a group of women. I see myself as part of this group, rather than the token queer or the exception to the rule. I want to thank these women for showing me what that’s like.

What monologue(s) are you performing?  What are the central messages? How are these monologues relevant?

I am performing “My Short Skirt” and “They Beat The Girl Out of My Boy … Or They Tried.” The first is a call for claiming your body and how you choose to dress it. My Short Skirt gives a voice to people who dress for themselves, not to make a statement or get a reaction. The second piece is one I did not know existed until I was presented the opportunity to read it for V-Day Taconic. This is a beautiful look into a trans woman’s desires, victories, and discrimination as she grew up. This is an important and strong monologue because it speaks very closely to the violence and hate trans people and their loved ones face all over the world. Adding a genderless voice to this piece is so beautiful, and opens up the lens of what it means to be transgender. Trans comes in a lot of different ways and looks different for everyone, and I am so honored for a chance to show my way.

Why was it important to have a conversation about vaginas in a women’s prison?

So many people, in prison and out, do not understand their bodies. This is largely through lackluster sex education in our childhoods, but at least for those outside of prison we have the ability to learn and experience with the world at large. For those in prison that never saw or fully experienced their vaginas, they don’t have Google or porn or The Vagina Monologues to open their understanding of this multifunctional part of their anatomy.

What are you most looking forward to about the Cherry Lane performance?

I get to be in The Vagina Monologues. That’s enough for me. The opportunity for me to be in such an iconicly female-centered story is such an honor. In this type of work I have been able to open some minds and help others struggling with their identities, so I will always be driven by that potential.

What do you hope the audience will take away from this performance?

I hope for openness. Whether we open minds, hearts, conversations, or a combination of those things, I hope for a lingering curiosity and openness to learn more. There are so many beautiful lives and stories in this world and the women of V-Day Taconic have been deliberate in their diverse casting. Seeing such different people unite around a central topic is an experience that calls for just that, openness.

Brigitte Harris

Brigitte Harris, Carpenter’s Apprentice

What motivated you to join the cast of V-Day Taconic? Participating in The Vagina Monologues is important to me because I am a victim of sexual assault. I was abused by multiple men including family members from the age of 3 to 17. I grew up hating my vagina and everything it represented. I hated physical contact of any kind even hugging people.
What have you learned from other members of cast or the play itself? Although I’ve had therapy it is hard to open up about the feelings of disgust I associate with having a vagina. Reading The Vagina Monologues has helped me to come to terms with my feelings. I relate with “My Angry Vagina.”

Why was it important to have a conversation about vaginas in a women’s prison?

I know a lot of women in prison who had similar stories to mine and similar feelings about their vagina. Some had never looked at it and were not aware of some of the basic features such as a separate pee hole. Performing this in prison is important because it helps to open up a dialogue. I remember whenever I saw a performance in Bedford, the next two days were spent discussing the people who came and what they performed and how they related to and affected us. I smile while imagining the conversations that happened in Taconic on Wednesday night.

What are you most looking forward to about the Cherry Lane performance?

I was not able to perform in Taconic due to a “technicality” so I am looking forward to performing at Cherry Lane. I hope it can help me in my healing process and help me to talk about my fears more with my family and friends.

What do you hope the audience will take away from this performance?

I hope that whoever comes to Cherry Lane will ask themselves if there was or is anything they feared about their vagina before the performance and how watching us will change that in the future.

Erin Cherry

Erin Cherry, Actress/Activist

What motivated you to join the cast of V-Day Taconic?

Its a win/win for me. I have always loved The Vagina Monologues. When I heard the monologues for the first time all I said was “Yes! Yes! Yes! Thank you!” Also, the idea of going to a women’s prison to bring awareness to domestic violence and to say “Hey you are not invisible to us. We see you, we are doing our part and we want to help,”  is very important to me.

What have you learned from other members of cast or the play itself?

I learned that the women in prison also have issues of dealing with their own vaginas just like we do on the outside. Its a common bond that I didn’t even think about. That’s the most important thing I have learned. I am also gracing the stage with women who have been formerly incarcerated due to domestic violence, and I am humbled at their strength and tenacity to not give up, and to survive and have a new life after their time served. I am in awe of them.

What monologue(s) are you performing? What are the central messages? How are these monologues relevant?

I am performing “The Little Coochie Snorcher That Could.” It’s about how women have a negative point of view of their own vaginas. Its something that is taught – how someone else’s action bring shame upon the female body, mind, and spirit. The Vagina Monologues will always be relevant. We are not taught properly how our vaginas work. To talk about them is taboo, so to be taught a healthy way to look at your vaginas doesn’t really happen for most of us. As long as society tells us that our vaginas are taboo, or politicians keep trying to control what we can and can’t do with our Vaginas, then the fight to free our vaginas will be everlasting.

Why was it important to have a conversation about vaginas in a women’s prison?

To let them know they are not alone on the vagina journey.

What are you most looking forward to about the Cherry Lane performance?

I am looking forward to being on stage with the women who have been formerly incarcerated.

What do you hope the audience will take away from this performance?

The permission to speak up about vaginas, to also see that there is life after domestic violence, that many women survive, and if you are suffering in silence I hope this performance will give you permission to speak up and seek help. vaginas need to unite.

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The Vagina Monologues

Written by Eve Ensler
Directed by Jenna Worsham (Broadway’s The Heidi Chronicles)

Friday, May 8, 2015 at 8:00PM

The Cherry Lane Theatre
38 Commerce Street
New York, NY 10014

Enjoy a talkback with Tony Award-winning playwright Eve Ensler, the cast, and director following the performance.

Tickets start at $35

Available through: The Cherry Lane Box Office
Online at http://www.cherrylanetheatre.org/onstage/the-vagina-monologues/
Or OvationTix 866-811-4111

An Obie Award-winning whirlwind tour of a forbidden zone, The Vagina Monologues introduces a wildly divergent gathering of female voices, including a six-year-old girl, a septuagenarian New Yorker, a vagina workshop participant, a woman who witnesses the birth of her granddaughter, a Bosnian survivor of rape, a trans woman who recounts her journey from childhood to adulthood, and a feminist happy to have found a man who “liked to look at it.”

First performed at Taconic Correctional Facility on April 22nd, V-Day Taconic’s production highlights women involved in the criminal justice system – a population that is very much affected by gender-based violence.  Join us for an evening of unbridled laughter and heartfelt storytelling in conjunction with V-Day’s One Billion Rising campaign to end violence against women and girls.

All proceeds from this one-night event will benefit Women’s Prison Association.

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