Over Valentine’s Day weekend, That Uppity Theatre Company produced two sold out performances of The Vagina Monologues by Eve Ensler as the official site for V-Day Missouri 2019, raising over $10,000 in honor of the 50th anniversary of NARAL Pro-Choice Missouri, the state’s largest grassroots pro-choice organization. The show’s success persisted despite a snow storm, censorship from Facebook ads, and competition from one of the busiest weekends of the year. The play was performed at the .ZACK at 3224 Locust St., St. Louis, MO 63103 in Grand Center on Saturday, February 16th at 7:30 PM and Sunday, February 17th at 2 PM. “I believe access to reproductive healthcare is a human right and a fundamental freedom,” said Joan Lipkin, Artistic Director of That Uppity Theatre Company, and producer of V-Day St Louis who selected NARAL Pro-Choice Missouri as the chief beneficiary of the production. “With the Trump administration and anti-choice lawmakers dominating both Congress and the statehouse, it is essential that we lend support in every way, including monetarily. Ninety percent of the proceeds from the show benefited NARAL Pro-Choice Missouri. Everyone volunteered their time to support NARAL Missouri. It is tremendous how many artists in the St Louis community came forward to share their skills to oppose this violence against women.” TUTC’s production broke ground as the first professional production of the play in St. Louis to include four transgender performers. The show was lead by a cast of 25 women, including six live percussionists, and co-directed by a team of four female directors. The cast included cisgender, transgender, non-binary, African American, Asian American, Latina, white, immigrant, and refugee women, spanning several decades in age. The monologues featured Galina Angheluta, Anna Blair, Teresa Doggett, Paige Russell Elias, Carmen Garcia, Pam Reckamp, Gail Smith, Margeau Steinau, Sara Lin, Alderwoman Annie Rice, Christa Lou Cunningham, India Reid, Judi Mann, Talichia Noah, Jeanitta Perkins, Mariah Richardson, Grace Wilder, and Miss Leon (aka Dieta Pepsi). The directors were Rhonda Cropp, Joan Lipkin, Suki Peters, and Pam Reckamp, with technical direction by Michael Perkins.
Lisa Frumhoff, Debbie Blackwell, Rithia Brown, Angela Rey Guerrero, and Natalie Turner Jones provided a live drumming ensemble before and during the show. Although this play by Eve Ensler has been produced thousands of times and was named “probably the most important piece of political theatre of the last decade” by Charles Isherwood of the New York Times, it had not received a production by a professional company in over ten years in St Louis. “Some of the moments were joyful, some poignant, some heartbreaking, but all were vivid,” said theatre critic Gerry Kowarsky of Two on the Aisle. “The cast members made the 20 year-old script entirely their own, celebrating the existence of the play and the gains in openness of expression that have been made in the last two decades.” “That Uppity Theatre Company’s V-Day 2019 production of Eve Ensler’s The Vagina Monologues opened its arms to welcome a truly diverse cast of female and female-identifying performers,” said Tina Farmer for KDHX. “The casting, supported with strong direction by Rhonda Cropp, Joan Lipkin, Suki Peters and Pam Reckhamp, was cause for a celebratory mood, even if the pieces themselves were emotionally varied, ranging from heartbreaking to exuberant and from sensual to righteous and angry.” The play explores consensual and nonconsensual sexual experiences, body image, genital mutilation, direct and indirect encounters with reproduction, sex work, love, rape, menstruation, birth, orgasm, and many other topics. At the performances, audience members were encouraged to sign up for Pro-Choice Lobby Day which will be held by NARAL Pro-Choice Missouri on March 12 in Jefferson City to protest the myriad of anti-choice bills that have been introduced in the General Assembly since the beginning of the year. Sign up now for more information. “It was an honor to see two packed houses full of patrons supporting reproductive freedom via this fantastic production,” said Leah Boersig, NARAL Pro-Choice Missouri Board Chair. “Thank you to Joan Lipkin, That Uppity Theatre Company, The Kranzberg Arts Foundation, the volunteers, patrons, donors, and everyone else who worked to make this weekend such a success.” This production was part of the international V-Day movement started by Ensler, which this year runs February 1-March 8 and encompasses over 1,000 productions around the globe. The Vagina Monologues is the cornerstone of the V-Day movement, whose participants stage benefit performances of the show and/or host other related events in their communities. The remaining 10% of the proceeds, not only from this production but from every V-Day production worldwide, will go to Ensler’s Spotlight campaign.
Lynn Venhaus has had a continuous byline in St. Louis metro region publications since 1978. She is a Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic, currently reviews films for Webster-Kirkwood Times and KTRS Radio, covers entertainment for PopLifeSTL.com and co-hosts podcast PopLifeSTL.com…Presents, and writes features and news for Belleville News-Democrat and contributes to other publications. She is a member of CCA, AWFJ and St. Louis Film Critics Association. She is a founding member of the St. Louis Theater Circle.