You could say “The Vagina Monologues” gave birth to Miami’s Casa Valentina.
In 2005, a benefit performance of Eve Ensler’s incendiary, episodic play about the feminine experience provided the seed money for the advocacy group that helps youths transition out of foster care. Now, more than 10 years later, the play returns to benefit the group again with a performance Thursday at the Olympia Theater in downtown Miami.
“Everybody is a volunteer,” says Hopi Noel Morton, the show’s producer and one of its co-stars. “We all love this bold, brave, funny, sad, endearing, enlightening testimonial to the experience of being a woman.”
When she first performed “The Vagina Monologues” in 1995, playwright Eve Ensler (also author of the memoir “In the Body of the World,” in which she examines her battle with cancer) performed the monologues herself. Now, translated into 48 languages and performed in more than 140 countries, the play — which touches on the subjects of love, sex, birth, death, rape, masturbation, sexual identity and domestic violence, with new monologues added periodically — has spawned V-Day, a global activist movement that has raised more than $100 million for groups working to stop violence against women and girls through productions of “The Vagina Monologues.”
Its most recent campaign, One Billion Rising, is a day of action around the world that aims to raise awareness of statistics like this: 1 in 3 women around the world will be beaten or raped in her lifetime.
Directed by Miriam “Mimi” King, “The Vagina Monologues” at the Olympia will feature more than 50 cast members, including singer Maryel Epps. Morton and King have expanded the monologues to include more of the arts, with dance, poetry and drumming as part of the production.
The play resonates with the entire cast, in particular Casa Valentina resident Dominque Rosario, 18, who was abused by her stepfather and will be part of the show.
“For me ‘The Vagina Monologues’ is more than just a play,” she writes. “It is empowerment, it is love, it is self-worth and most of all it is acceptance. This play has helped me realize that self-care should be a priority and while other people are important that we shouldn’t put ourselves on the back burner, which is a sentiment I will carry for the rest of my life.”
Morton, who’s the daughter of actor Joe Morton, says working on the play has been “life-changing.”
“I went to Sarah Lawrence. I come from an open-minded family. That doesn’t make you exempt from these experiences,” she says. “It was cathartic and healing to hear women talking about these issues. It’s therapeutic.”
We’ve been led by male energy for generations. I don’t think it’s really going anywhere good. Look at our planet, our politics, the tenor of what’s happening. There needs to be a change.
Hopi Noel Morton, producer of ‘The Vagina Monologues’ at the Olympia Theater
Earlier this month, Ensler wrote in Guernica that the current political climate in the United States has left her unsettled: “I wake up every day in a state of rage, trying to hoist myself from a panicked pit of helplessness. For many across this country and the world, this rage and helplessness is not new. Marginalized communities do not see the Trump regime as an aberration but rather a continuation of what they have been suffering for a very long time. Now this horror has come for the more privileged.”
Morton too is dismayed by the struggles women still face and that organizations aimed at improving women’s lives — such as Planned Parenthood — have been threatened.
“Unfortunately the issues brought up in the play still exist to a phenomenally large degree,” she says. “I think this play resonates because we’re still dealing with the same issues as we were 20 years ago. We’ve been led by male energy for generations. I don’t think it’s really going anywhere good. Look at our planet, our politics, the tenor of what’s happening. There needs to be a change.
“We’re ready to take responsibility for the greater good of everyone and our planet. Nothing is stronger than a bunch of women working together.”
If You Go
What: Eve Ensler’s ‘The Vagina Monologues’
When: 8 p.m. Feb. 23
Where: Olympia Theater, 174 East Flagler St., Miami
Tickets: $30-$250 VIP with pit seating, valet parking, pre-show cocktail reception; https://tickets.olympiatheater.org/ordertickets.asp?p=454&src=eventperformances