Who: Marieka Greene is an elementary school teacher and co-producer with Jenni Peskin, Teafly Peterson, Bre Hibbs and Sareli Beltran of two stage readings of Eve Ensler’s “The Vagina Monologues” Feb. 15 at Madras Performing Arts Center and Feb. 16 at the Tower Theatre in Bend. Part of V-Day, “a global activist movement to end violence against all women and girls,” according to vday.org, the production features a cast of 28 Central Oregon women. Written as a series of pieces about the experience of being a woman, Ensler created the show based on her interviews with hundreds of women. Proceeds from this year’s Central Oregon performances will go to Planned Parenthood of Central Oregon, Let’s Talk Diversity Coalition and Shakti Rising Oregon. Contact: email@example.com .
Q: Did you, Jenni, Bre and Teafly present the show back in 2016?
A: In 2016 there were two productions. One was at Sol Alchemy, which was Bre’s organization. … I stepped in later in the process. It was a group pretty much made up of Bre’s friends. I came in at the 11th hour. I was involved in it every year in college, and acted in it and directed it. … When Bre got the hankering to put it on again this year, she reached out to all of us.
Q: Is it largely the same cast as three years ago?
A: No, actually it isn’t. That was one of the things we all wanted to do very differently. We wanted to try our best to make the auditions accessible to a much larger demographic of women. We actually held auditions … in Bend, Redmond and Madras. We’ve worked really hard, although only mildly successfully, to include a few bilingual women and women of color. That was also part of our mission — just to try to make a cast that better represented the people that we have in Central Oregon. … We are using some of the pieces from the Spanish script in our production, so there are some bilingual moments in our play this year. There are a few people from the cast three years ago, but it’s largely very different. It’s also twice the size. We have 25 women covering the main script, and then we have three spotlight speakers, which are local women telling their personal stories.
Q: Is that something that came out of V-Day?
A: Every year the V-Day organization names a new spotlight. … This year it is shining light on women who are or have formerly been incarcerated. So that’s kind of the focus. So one of our three spotlights is from a woman who was formerly incarcerated. … Often Eve Ensler writes something specific to go with the spotlight theme, but it doesn’t seem like she’s done that this year. We keep waiting for something to pop. … But we were asked specifically that one of the spotlight pieces reflect that focus of women with experience of being incarcerated.
Q: With the #MeToo movement and everything, it seems like this material is as timely as ever. In the late ’90s, it seemed very cutting edge, and now it seems like the world has caught up to it.
A: I think it’s one of those things where you think we’ve progressed a certain amount, and then you discover we haven’t. One of the ways the script has really changed and been challenged a lot is around gender identity. Especially with the word “vagina.” You know, it’s like does having a vagina define who a woman is? … Even in our production team, we talked about, “Well, you don’t have to have a vagina.” … If you identify in some way with these pieces and this call to ending violence, or this call to empower women, or people who live as women, or who have experience with vaginas, whether they identify as women or not, that you can participate. We were hoping to have a transgender woman on cast. We don’t. We have mothers of transgender children. I think, yes, in some ways we’ve come a long way since the ’90s, it’s not as cutting edge. But at the same time, especially when you’re a director showing up in Madras looking for women who want to be a part of this project, you realize we still have a long way to go.
Q: Who do you feel most needs to see this show?
A: I think anybody who wants to support the cause of empowering women, of hearing the stories of women and the shared experience of women. Anybody who wants to support our organizations. Anybody who feels that the work they do in our community should come. People who have never seen it should come. People who have seen it a bunch of times should come, because it’s always very different. I know I’m giving you really general responses, but I think everybody should see it. The Tower is almost sold out, but the Madras Performing Arts Center is a huge, roomy, beautiful center that most of us in Bend haven’t been to, and it’s going to be by donation at the door.
— David Jasper, The Bulletin