The Courage to Connect

By Shannon Stockwell 

When I first got the email, I ignored it. Some of my fellow A.C.T. staff members were getting together to put on a production of The Vagina Monologues, by Eve Ensler, and they were inviting all women in the company to audition.

Audition? I hadn’t acted in years. What’s more, I had gone a long time without saying the word “vagina” in public—I was feeling myself becoming sort of prudish—and it made me blush just thinking about telling people that I was in the show. I rationalized to myself: It’s outdated. It was first performed in 1996. What relevance could the show possibly have anymore?

And then I auditioned.

Stockwell at a rehearsal for The Vagina Monologues. Photo by Rebecca Struch. 

I’m still not entirely sure why. Maybe I wanted to spend more time with the people I work with. Maybe I missed acting. Maybe something inside me wanted to be able to say “vagina” in public.  

And at the first read-through, all of my rationalizations about the show’s irrelevance were thrown out the window. This group of women—many of them my coworkers who had never acted before, some of them community members, and one a Young Conservatory alum—read aloud these monologues that are alternatively tragic, hilarious, and empowering, and I realized that, although the show was first performed 20 years ago, these monologues and the issues they explore are still shockingly pertinent to the struggles of modern-day women.

I was struck with sadness that, even after two decades of work against sexism and violence, women are still dealing with the same issues they were 20 years ago. But I was also grateful for this beautiful piece that continues to give women the courage to share and connect. After the read-through, the women in the cast discussed the play and we got wildly off-topic, talking about our bodies, our identities, and our own experiences of sexism. It was because of this play that we were given the chance to do that.

Many emotions course throughout the play, so rehearsals were intense. But this special group of women always supported each other, always held space for each other. Instead of suppressing the emotions that came up, we embraced them and let them show.

Now, we look forward to our performances, in which we will share these powerful, tragic, and funny monologues with an audience. Not only does our performance raise awareness about stopping violence against women, but also, all proceeds go to Oasis for Girls and W.O.M.A.N. Inc., two San Francisco–based organizations that strive to help women and girls succeed and thrive. Our performance is part of a global V-Day celebration, a day devoted to celebrating women and fighting violence against them.  I’m so proud to have been a part of this process.

And one more time, for the people in the back: VAGINA!

Performances will take place in The Rueff at A.C.T.'s Strand Theater, 1127 Market Street
February 12, 8 pm
February 13, 2:30 pm & 8 pm
Made possible with generous support from A.C.T.
Directed by Allie Moss

Buy tickets here!

Shannon Stockwell is the publications associate at A.C.T. and an actor in The Vagina Monologues.

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