I was asked a few weeks ago to do some pro bono work (translated: some friends wanted me to do them a favor) making a promo video for an upcoming production of the Vagina Monologues performed by medical students in Beer Sheva. We took an hour one afternoon and cornered a variety of guys around the medical campus who were subsequently convinced to recite portions of various monologues from the play. It was a pretty hilarious as a promo and I found it funny to note that while the under Vagina Monologue guidelines men are not allowed to perform speaking roles, the bizarre incongruity of hearing men perform the play would add an element of comedy that might justify a higher ticket price and therefore more money raised by the fundraising performance. But I think that would be a mistake.
It seems obvious that this is the exact reason why the gender of performing actors is stated as an explicit rule for performances associated with the V-Day/V-Spot campaign. Tina Fey's autobiography Bossy Pants has a really well-written segment talking about the tension of gender composition when writing and casting sketches for Saturday Night Live. She shares an anecdote (in the chapter entitled Peeing in Jars with Boys) about an episode of SNL hosted by Sylvester Stallone. In that episode they performed a Rocky-themed sketch and there was a debate about whether the part of Rocky's wife Adrian should be played by Cheri Oteri, whose impression of Adrian was dead-on, or by Chris Kattan in a dress. Tine Fey recounts that since it was her first week, she couldn't say exactly where the idea came from or who was responsible for deciding that Kattan in drag would be funnier than a female actress, but the casting decision reflected a subtle sexism. The assumption was that the shock comedy of a man in a dress had greater comedic appeal that whatever a female actress could bring to the character. The reality that she celebrates being able to demonstrate during Tina's nine years at SNL was that the female comics in the cast were so goddamn talented that even the base, gut humor of a dude in drag paled in comparison to the comedic genius that these women could bring to a performance.
And I think that's more or less the point in the case of the Vagina Monologues guidelines. I can't speak for either the playwright nor for those managing the V-Day/V-Spot campaign, but I think the point here is not that any of these individuals are opposed to humor. Instead, their message has a power and significance that transcends my desire to laugh. The only reason anyone would choose to turn the play into a comedy is if they had never experienced any of the tragedies upon which the life-affirming message of the play is based. The title of the play does not use the word vagina in the same way we use monikers for human genitalia as a platform for awk-comedy. On the contrary, it highlights and reinforces the bravery required to both share and own these stories in today's world.
Enjoy the promo and if you're in the Beer Sheva area on March 6th, I encourage you to come and see the performance. The location and ticket details are at the end of the video. Enjoy.