V – is for Victory

This is how I came to love performing in The Vagina Monologues.

It wasn’t a love of the stage or performing.

It wasn’t because I discovered I am actually Kate Winslet — I’m not. My acting skills are average at best, though I do try.

And while I, like one in three women on the planet, have experienced sexual violence/abuse, and can tell you that taking part in something like the Monologues is a constructive way to exercise those demons, that’s not what drew me to it either.

Initially, it was to be part of something I believed makes a real difference.

But it became something else.

For those who haven’t heard of it, The Vagina Monologues is a collection of 35 monologues written by American playwright Eve Ensler.

The pieces, which range from humorous to utterly heartbreaking, are based on interviews Ensler conducted with a diverse group of 200 women, about their views on sex, relationships and violence. The play is performed in communities around the world each year with the proceeds from ticket sales going directly to local agencies that work to end violence against women and children. This year is its 20th anniversary.

I first learned about The Vagina Monologues when I was in high school. I heard there was a local production and I dragged one of my friends downtown to the audition. Shortly after our arrival I became gripped by fear. These other women could act..and I had no idea what I was doing.

I got nervous and high-tailed it out of there and I never looked back — until 2014.

I was assigned to cover a South Okanagan production of the play for the newspaper I was working for at the time, and I was blown away. Those women were brave, fearless, even. They just got up there and DID it. They were so effortlessly cool — much cooler than me. They were tattooed, punk-haired, black lipsticked, combat boot wearing amazon women and I WANTED to be one of them.

The following year I went out for an audition and to my complete surprise, I got a part. I was so intimidated.

I got scared. When I get scared, I’m kind of like a frightened animal or a feral child, I lash out —not because I mean to, but because I how I have learned to protect myself when I feel small. I often feel that way around large groups of women.

My friends are other women. I also have an amazing mother who inspires me every day. But it’s different with them, they know me and love me, despite my many moods, quirks and eccentricities.

But these other actresses were not my friends. They were strangers. I was afraid of their judgment. At rehearsal, I overcompensated for my fears and often came off as kind of a jerk — I was too opinionated, I argued with the director and I masked my insecurities and anxieties by being aggressive or antagonistic.

This mainly made me come off like I thought I was better than everyone, which was the exact opposite of how I actually felt. At the final dress rehearsal, I panicked and took off — quietly sneaking out the back door after running my lines. Once again, I made for the hills. I figured no one would care if I left because I wasn’t a fabulous actress and I was difficult.

But much to my surprise they came after me. They wouldn’t let me quit. They refused to let me run away.

Shockingly, the co-director, Aimee, didn’t tell me to grow up and get my butt back there, although she probably should have. Aimee, and as it turns out all the other actresses, saw right through my nonsense, forgave me for it and welcomed me back with love. They all encouraged me, without judgment or malice. They were only supportive.

I never knew people could do that. I was so overwhelmed, I cried.

I did the show and I wasn’t awful. More importantly, I did it. I didn’t run away. And now I’m doing it again. At times I am still intimidated by the talent, the bravery, and yes, the black lipstick.

I accept my fear now and work though it and try not to let it manifest in me acting like a jerk, but I cannot rock black lipstick. The best part is that this time, I am armed with the knowledge that I have nothing to be afraid of because whether I’m obnoxious or not, these women have got my back. And you know what, I’ve got theirs.

Erin Christie

Morning Star Staff

erin.christie@vernomorningstar.com

(Courtesy of Jessalyn Broadfoot/V-Day Kelowna 2018)
The cast of the V-Day South Okanagan’s 2015 production of The Vagina Monologues. (Photo courtesy of T. Nichols)
Performers from Okanagan productions of The Vagina Monologues, past and present. (Photos by Hanna Ross and Erin Christie)

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