Twenty-five years ago, New York playwright Eve Ensler interviewed over 200 women from all walks of life about, essentially, their vaginas, turning aspects of their stories and recurring themes into a dozen vignettes for the stage, collectively known as The Vagina Monologues.
It was an instant success. The collection of stories was at once both very personal and universal. Even if viewers hadn’t experienced an exact situation, they likely could recall a similar one, or empathize with the character via the broader human connection.
And, for better or worse, what was relevant to women in the mid-1990s is still relevant today. Not meaning simply in the essence of womanhood (that women still have vaginas), but rather what that essence faces in society – which is why the Phnom Penh Players are producing the play again: to provide an outlet for cast and audience members, to open the eyes of viewers, to celebrate women and to provide a reminder of the kinds of shit they have to go through.
While the Players could have chosen a different all-female play to convey women’s empowerment, they found the setup of the Monologues hits a nerve that others can’t.
What makes the play so relatable is that it talks about the shit – things we, in society, don’t normally talk about – especially aloud, on stage, in front of a bunch of strangers. Case in point: having the word “vagina” in the title.
This year’s performance is testing out a new online viewing experience, instigated by, yes, the pandemic. Originally set to be performed live in late February, the show was pushed back and eventually moved online after the February 20 event. However, this may prove to be an unexpected blessing, as the show is now more accessible than ever: people who are outside of Phnom Penh are able to watch, and the tickets are suggested donation starting at $2, offering a sliding scale of affordability. (All ticket proceeds go to LICADHO’s Early Years Behind Bars project, which assists small children and pregnant women living in Cambodian prisons.)
According to whatsonphnompenh.com