GROSS ANATOMY: Ah, Valentine’s Day weekend. When love is in the air, the clothes come off — or, rather, in the case of two weekend productions, the conversation turns on sex.
While the two productions — “The Vagina Monologues” and “The Motherf**ker With the Hat” — approach stripping down in different manners, both are provocative in the truest sense of the word.
The episodic production “The Vagina Monologues,” built on monologues of the female experience, begins a three-day run at the USC Law School auditorium tonight. “A woman is more than the sum of her parts” is the tagline the annual production at USC is using.
Alexis Stratton, the co-director, said she found the monologues, which discuss an array of topics such as sex, violence, reclamation of words and colloquial names of the female sex organ, to be transformative.
“It does a lot to raise awareness of experiences of women,” Stratton said. “It lets women’s voices be heard.”
Eve Ensler wrote and performed the original play that opened Off Broadway in the mid-’90s. It grew to include celebrity monologists and HBO produced a TV show. Some of the monologues, like the one titled “The Angry Vagina,” an often funny detailing of what the female body endures, can be rattling. But that seems to be the point, as education isn’t always without discomfort.
“I think a lot of people are uncomfortable with the content,” said Stratton, who saw the production for the first time with two friends, one of them a male, more than a decade ago. “I remember walking out and my male friend was like a deer caught in headlights. He said he was glad he saw it, but he was still surprised by it.
“It can open people’s eyes to various experiences,” Stratton, a writer and curriculum developer at The Center for Child and Family Studies at USC, continued. “That’s one of the important things, to build alliances across genders.”
Among the production’s beneficiaries is Sexual Trauma Services of the Midlands, which provides crisis intervention, advocacy and support services for adolescent and adult survivors of sexual assault. The organization also does prevention education.
“I think that’s one of the key aspects that they do,” Stratton said.
There will be 19 monologues this year performed by 27 cast members. Stratton’s co-director is Leia Cain, a USC graduate student who has directed the show in other locations, and like Stratton, has done a monologue on stage.
The collection of stories within “The Vagina Monologues,” told from the perspective of women with a vast array of experience, move from bizarre to funny to tragic.
“You shouldn’t be intimidated by the word vagina,” Stratton said. “It’s just women telling stories.”
A day after producing the Henderson Bros. Burlesque as part of the What’s Love event at 701 Whaley, Chad Henderson (who worked with choreographer Terrance Henderson) is back at Trustus Theatre to direct “The Motherf**ker With the Hat.” The play written by Stephen Adly Guirgis requires anatomical exposure in a very literal sense.
The characters Guirgis, considered one of the best contemporary playwrights, has created struggle with life’s uncertainties, and sometimes the pressure is released through profane rants.
“They are saying these things, because they are in an argument with each other, so wouldn’t you curse if you were?” Henderson said.
But who argues naked?
“That’s true,” Henderson conceded. “It’s all justified by the story.”
“There’s probably more nudity in this one than the Broadway production,” he continued. “But to me, it’s all about the realism.
“If we’re going to have sex after I get out of the shower, why would (my girlfriend) come out of the shower all dressed up? Why would I, as a man, think I’m going to have sex with my girlfriend and not get ready and get naked?”
Hard to argue with that reasoning.
BANDS TO MAKE HER DANCE: The Summer Concert Series, the annual run of concerts on Saturday nights in Finlay Park, is accepting submissions. If interested, bands should send a media kit (include a photograph, live recording and a biography) to Kim Mitchell at City of Columbia Parks and Recreation, 1111 Parkside Drive, Columbia, SC, 29203. The submissions, due by March 1, can also be e-mailed to email@example.com.
For more information, call (803) 545-3100.