Patrick Trautfield

The very word evokes a mixture of responses.

Vaúgiúna / vuh-jahy-nuh/ n: The tube-shaped part of the reproductive tract in female mammals that is connected to the uterus at one end and opens to the outside of the body on the other end.

Is a vagina merely a anatomical fixture essential for childbearing or does it symbolize and embody the female gender in a deeper sense? Does it represent something that should be suppressed or something that should be celebrated?

These issues and many more will be explored this weekend in benefit performances of Eve Ensler’s controversial 1996 work, “The Vagina Monologues.”

Sponsored by Cal Poly’s Women’s Programs and Services, the empowering “series of monologues” will be playing at the Performing Arts Center Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. The price for admission is $12 for students and $15 for general admission. Tickets are available at the Performing Arts Center box office.

“(The Vagina Monologues) empowers women across the board, especially in regards to women’s sexuality, women in other cultures and women violence,” producer Natalie Smith said. “(Our hope) is that it will be an open venue to talk about sexuality and things that are normally overlooked in society. Plus, it’s entertaining.”

Based on interviews with more than 200 women, Ensler wrote her play – of about 18 vignettes – to range from the serious to the comic. The 23-woman cast will present the sketches in true monologue form on subjects pertinent to women.

Comic sketches are interspersed with more solemn ones, Smith said so that “it’s not like you’re hit, ‘wham!’ with all serious ones. They’re all mixed up.”

The performance is one of more than 650 being staged throughout the world for V-Day, a global movement begun by Ensler. What she and literally thousands of others are hoping to do intertnationally on this day (or weekend) – which is dedicated to “victory, Valentine and vagina” – is raise awareness for and eventually stop violence geared towards women and young girls around the world. Peace is the goal.

According the V-Day Web site, more than $30 million have been raised over the past eight years.

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