Ahead of NU's V-Day, group promotes women in theater

    From the United States to Nigeria, women throughout the world are celebrating V-Day, an annual movement to raise awareness about violence against women as well as raise money for local groups working to end violence, and Northwestern joins in with showings of “The Vagina Monologues” this weekend, in addition to other events.

    As part of V-Week, Katy Hive, from 20% Chicago Theater Company spoke Wednesday in Fisk Hall about the company’s mission to promote women artists in the theater. The company’s name represents the current percentage of women producers, directors, designers and playwrights in theater.

    “Twenty percent is even a little high,” Hive told the nine people who attended. “The actual figures, especially for women technical directors, are about seventeen percent and the numbers are even smaller in high-end jobs.”

    Hive compared the world of theater production to Washington politics, calling both a boys’ club. She also said the minimal number of female critics inhibits female artists from getting funded.

    20% Chicago, founded in 2003 by graduates of Smith College, is composed of females but they do hire male actors if a certain play requires it. “We are a women-centered organization, but we are not at all about hating men. We have men on our board and we believe men are our biggest allies in the fight against discrimination.” Hive said their audiences include both males and females.

    The new mission of the theater company focuses on encouraging submissions from unknown playwrights to help more women artists find their voice. Last year, 20% Chicago even workshopped two scripts of female Northwestern grad students.

    Amy Buckler, a Northwestern theater major, said that issues of gender equality are also visible on campus, citing that most students in the Masters of Fine Arts program for directing are male.

    This year celebrates the tenth anniversary of V-Day, the non-profit organization started by author of the Obie-award-winning Vagina Monologues, Eve Ensler. Traditionally, a rendition of the play occurs on Valentine’s Day; Northwestern’s performances will start Friday.

    Buckler, who is directing this year’s production, said that although they have faced some opposition, Northwestern has been generally receptive to the show. Some workers at Norris took down flyers with the word “vagina” displayed on them, but most arguments against the play came from students, especially conservative student groups and the Northwestern Chronicle.

    Overall, Northwestern is a liberal university though, Buckler said. Many of her friends at other colleges were forced to move the production off campus.

    “A friend directing the show at St. Louis University was picketed the first year and then forced to move off campus the next year. None of the protesters had ever even seen the show though,” she said.

    Buckler said “the key is to cast the show in a positive light. It’s about women empowerment, charity and awareness, not sex and vulgarity.”

    This year’s show will end with a new monologue about violence against women in New Orleans, one that Ensler just added to her repertoire. Among the 3,700 predicted V-Day celebrations around the world this year, the largest will take place in New Orleans.

    Ensler told Meredith Vieira on The Today Show that New Orleans was the perfect place for the event because it was corrupted, neglected and abused after Katrina. “It’s really the vagina of America,” Ensler said.


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