All-deaf cast takes on “Vagina Monologues” at the Ritz

Get used to the word "vagina," 'cause you'll be reading it a lot below.

PHOTO COURTESY SHAWN VRIEZEN

PHOTO COURTESY SHAWN VRIEZEN

Kara Nesvig

âÄúThe Vagina MonologuesâÄù WHEN: Feb. 19-20, 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. WHERE: The Ritz Theater, 345 13 Ave. NE TICKETS: $19 Playwright/actress/activist Eve Ensler had to have known that âÄúThe Vagina MonologuesâÄù would shock more than a few people when she wrote it in the mid-1990s. The play, which is composed of several monologues relating in some way to lady parts, raised eyebrows and awareness and soon became something of a runaway cult hit, with celebrities like Jane Fonda and Oprah taking the mic in EnslerâÄôs place. The Ritz Theater in Minneapolis is the latest to take on âÄúThe Vagina MonologuesâÄù in an unconventional manner. An all-deaf cast will perform the monologues, but there will be voice actors to help out if youâÄôre not familiar with sign language. Ensler wrote the monologues after chatting with hundreds of women and from her own experiences, but theyâÄôve taken on a life of their own as a tool of social activism. The work has been interpreted by the transgender community, disputed and argued over by feminists, cherished by a generation of women and translated into 24 languages, with profits often going to the community in which they are performed. âÄúWhat makes this performance unique is seeing the âÄòVagina MonologuesâÄô in American Sign Language,âÄù director Jessalyn Frank said. âÄúYou get all the language and humor with an ASL aspect, which contains body language, sign language and facial expressions. It really gives more to the performance.âÄù But this alternative-style performance is far from a novelty. Staging âÄúThe Vagina MonologuesâÄù with an all-deaf cast does more than entertain and inform; itâÄôs also meant to educate the deaf community about sexual abuse. âÄúBecause the deaf community is small and everyone knows everyone, if [someone] was to stop at a booth for domestic violence or sexual violence, people would fear they knew your business,âÄù said Frank. Organizers of this staging are hoping to support the deaf community and reach out to them in a non-threatening manner. âÄúWith no funding from the state or federal government, we fend for ourselves. Many hearing people think the deaf should be mainstreamed but do not realize that the deaf community victims prefer to be abused than isolated, which means without communication,âÄù she said. In a similar endeavor two years ago, Frank and her cohorts raised $15,000 and they hope to make more this time around, specifically to hire a deaf advocate to aid with court appearances and filings. âÄúItâÄôs a show you donâÄôt want to miss,âÄù she says. âÄúPeople who go to our show get a sense of a very different culture.âÄù