VAGINA MONOLOGUES PACKS THE HOUSE
by Vicky Newman/Special to The Malibu Times
Thursday, February 26, 2004

Proceeds from Obie Award-winning play benefits local charities to stop violence against women and girls.

It was standing room only at Malibu Stage Company Sunday night, for the last of three performances of "The Vagina Monologues" staged by V-Day Malibu 2004 College Campaign at the 99-seat theater.

Students from Pepperdine University produced the internationally acclaimed comedy, which uses clever linguistics to free the flow of discourse about female sexuality.

Malibuites Joan Benedict Steiger and Susie Duff, also a playwright, performed in two of the monologues.

Pepperdine sophomore Grant Turck, who raised a firestorm with his attempted registration of an anti-homophobia club on campus last week, greeted the all-ages, both-sexes audience as they came in from a stormy night.

Steiger, a veteran actress who joined the cast at the last minute, said she had developed new respect for the play.

"Initially the dialogue shocked me-I kept thinking, what would my mother say-but now I don't think of it," Steiger said in a telephone interview before the performance. "I realized I had seen the birth of my granddaughter."

"I have a tremendous love for comedy," Steiger, who appeared in the "Steve Allen" television show, added. "When you can present a serious subject without preaching, you get your points across much more effectively."

Playwright Eve Ensler, 50, a victim of incest from the age of five to ten years old, has taken advantage of the play's success to use it as a political vehicle and in fundraisers for the nonprofit she founded, V-Day.

The global movement to stop violence against women and girls began as a Valentine's Day fundraiser in 1998, and is now an annual two-month season of "Monologues" benefit performances. In a variety of events and gatherings, the organization has raised more than $20 million to fund grassroots, national and international organizations.

Besides the modest admission price, ranging from $15-$25, two pages of Malibu business advertising in the program brochure raised money for local charities.

"Everyone stepped up to embrace the project," Mary Guilliams, a Pepperdine senior and the play's director, said of local business donations. "This was a true community effort."

The Gail "Gay" Smith Fund, named in honor of the Ogden Cleaner's employee who was murdered last year, and Santa Monica-based Sojourn Services for Battered Women and Their Children received proceeds from last week's performances. So did Break the Cycle, a Santa-Monica based, national lawyers group that aids young victims of domestic abuse pro bono.

Malibu Stage Co. supporter Steiger also sees new opportunities for the 14-year-old institution.

"I'm really looking forward to developing Malibu Stage Co., making it more widely known in our community," Steiger said. "It's a little jewel of a theater."

"I hope that more local actors will take advantage of their downtime between big projects to join the productions," Steiger continued. "People love to see good theater, especially in their home town."

For information on the V-Day movement, visit www.vday.org
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