It's an unconventional venue for an unconventional show: Wednesday night, Green Light Arts is doing a benefit reading of The Vagina Monologues in Kitchener's council chambers.
"It makes me really happy that we're doing this piece in city hall, in council chambers — a place that is symbolic with change and people's voices and policy and systems," said Carin Lowerison, managing director of Green Light Arts.
"I think it's wonderful," agreed Jelena Vermilion, one of the women participating in the benefit reading. "Very, very subversive and I'm looking forward to the facial reactions."
'People don't want to be sexualized or objectified. They just want to be viewed as human beings.' — Carin Lowerison, Green Light Arts
The event is a benefit reading, featuring community leaders from all walks of life. All proceeds go to charity: 90 per cent to the Women's Crisis Services of Waterloo Region and 10 per cent to to the V-Day campaign, which fights violence against women and girls.
"Eve Ensler wrote this play and it was first produced in 1994. It was later turned into a global activist movement in '98 with the first V-Day event in New York City," explained Lowerison.
This year marks the 20th anniversary of V-Day activism but the monologues have faced their fair share of criticism over the years, Lowerison said.
"When the play was put together in the '90s it was at the height of a particular wave of feminism. It was about embracing sexuality, about having permission to be sexual, about women discovering or rediscovering their bodies. And it created a tidal wave of new thoughts and it changed the world."
But times have changed, she said.
"We're now in the #metoo movement, where people don't want to be sexualized or objectified. They just want to be viewed as human beings and be given equal power to their counterparts."
To reflect changing times, the roster of monologues included in The Vagina Monologues is fluid and new monologues are written by Ensler as needed.
One of those new monologues is from a transgender perspective. It isn't perfect, said Lowerison; it speaks only to the experience of transition from male to female.
'It's really important that this play keeps getting produced until things actually shift.' - Carin Lowerison, Green Light Arts director of The Vagina Monologues
Vermilion, who is a trans sex worker from Cambridge, will be performing that monologue. She said she relates in part to the monologue but it's not perfect.
"There's definitely a lot of pain, a lot of themes that are the same in my own life. But it is specifically talking about this trans woman's post-op vagina," Lowerison said. "But I'm totally happy to be a conduit in this monologue and I'm totally happy to communicate this particular facet of a trans experience."
There's still room for improvement, Lowerison said, "but this piece, all of the themes and topics within it are still really timely, are still really relevant."
"When you consider how much abuse and violence women and women-identifying individuals endure, it's really important that this play keeps getting produced until things actually shift."