This story has been changed to add information about the "Vagina Monologues" performance on Jeju on March 16, and add a date to the Jinju schedule. Also, dates for Gwangju have since been added. -- Ed.
Groups across Korea are arranging events in support of V-Day this spring in support of women’s charities.
V-Day is an international movement started by “Vagina Monologues” author Eve Ensler to end violence against women.
V-Day events are held each spring, with 10 percent of the funds going to support the parent organization’s activities and the remainder to local charities.
This year’s main charity for V-Day Seoul is the Korea Unwed Mothers and Families Association, with some also going to Seoul Survivor Services.
|Participants of last year’s V-Day Busan events form a message on their backs. (Jen Sotham)|
Barri Tsavaris, who is running the Seoul events, had her first involvement in the movement in 2001, when the university she was attending staged one of the first college performances.
This is her second production in Korea, and says that what has kept her going over the 12 years since her first V-Day is the cause.
“For this project I consider myself an activist before an actor, and that’s what I tell all the performers in the show,” she said. “And that’s why I keep doing this, because the issues are really important.”
Seeing the performances can also be inspiring. Jen Sotham, who is running Busan events, said that her friends were inspired to set up a V-Day event after seeing the first performance of “The Vagina Monologues” in Changwon, South Gyeongsang Province in 2009. Four weeks later the first performance was put on in Busan.
Now in its fourth year, V-Day Changwon is supporting Gyeongnam Women’s Association United, which runs support services for women and campaigns for legal and social changes to help women. It kicked off with an official event on Feb. 15 and is running a mixed Korean- and English-language monologues performance next week.
“In the past, it’s been scant as it is difficult to bring the foreign and Korean communities together,” said V-Day Changwon co-organizer Lindsay Auten. “But this year, the GWAU were very keen and eager to be a part.”
Most of the groups have some Korean performers, with Changwon and Busan having monologues performed in Korean. The Busan group ― which this year supports Saelim Women’s Shelter for victims of domestic violence and Saegil Shelter for sex-trafficking victims ― performed “Say It,” about the “comfort women” in Korean and English last year.
“The woman who performs it (in Korean) did such a phenomenal job,” said Sotham. “She had her mother and her grandmother come to the performance last year and they were so moved by the show.
“She hadn’t ever heard of it before a friend asked her to be a part of it. So she is going to be a part of it again doing an English monologue this year, which we are really excited about.”
The V-Day organization’s rules are quite strict ― “We even break the rules by putting an intermission in,” Tsavaris says ― and the inclusion of the comfort women monologue, included in this year’s Seoul and Busan shows, needed special permission.
The strict rules also mean men cannot perform the “Vagina Monologues,” and the groups in Busan, Seoul and Jinju are also putting on “A Memory, a Monologue, a Rant and a Prayer” to include male performers.
Director of the Jinju show Todd Magowan said that having men involved added to the solidarity of the movement and diffused some of the stigma surrounding the monologues, as well as providing a different viewing experience.
“From a director’s viewpoint, the male roles add a dynamic and variety to the voices of the show,” he said.
But he conceded that it had its drawbacks, and that he felt some women were embarrassed about rehearsing some of the material in front of men.
The local organization V-Day Jinju supports is the Jinju YWCA.
“They have a variety of programs geared toward helping avoid conflict in mixed-marriages, which are a high risk group for domestic violence in Korea,” explained Magowan.
Gwangju V-Day is putting on the “Vagina Monologues,” and so do not have men in the cast, but co-organizer Leigh Hellman-Kang also said that male involvement was important.
“We couldn’t have had such an inspiring performance last year without our strong and dedicated female cast or the crucial support of the broader Korean community,” she said. “But we couldn’t have pulled off the whole campaign without the support and help ― big and small ― of our community’s men.”
But like others, Hellman-Kang said that strict adherence to the scripts themselves was important.
“These Monologues aren’t about characters. They are about real women whose stories Eve Ensler collected and made into a performance piece,” she said. “Every performer owes it to her woman (or women) to not just act like them, but to ― for a few minutes on stage ― BE them.”
“The Vagina Monologues” will be staged on March 15 at 9 p.m., March 16 at 8 p.m. and March 17 at 5 p.m. at Art Center K in Hyehwa, Seoul. The play will also be staged at Changwon University’s Bongnim Theater at 7 p.m. on March 16, in Busan on April 27 at 7 p.m. and April 28 at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. at the Vinyl Underground, and in Gwangju on April 27 at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. and 28 at 3 p.m. at Gwangju Art Hall.
A performance on Jeju Island will be staged at the Haebyeon Concert Hall at 7 p.m. on March 16. Tickets to the Jeju show are ‘pay what you can’ with a 5,000 won minimum. Proceeds will go to help a women’s shelter in the east of the island.
“A Memory, a Monologue, a Rant and a Prayer” will be staged at 8 p.m. Saturday at Moonnight in Itaewon, Seoul. A performance is planned for Busan on March 16 (venue to be confirmed) along with three in Jinju in late April and May. Two Jinju dates are not yet fixed but one show is at 4 p.m. on May 12 at the National Museum in Jinju Castle.
Visit the V-Day groups’ Facebook pages for more details and information about other performances and events.
By Paul Kerry (email@example.com)