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Marking 15 years of 'Vagina Monologues'

Playwright, performer and activist Eve Ensler, author of

Playwright, performer and activist Eve Ensler, author of "The Vagina Monologues" (2011) Photo Credit: Scott Gries

It was the female body part that no one wanted to talk about. But 15 years after "The Vagina Monologues" was staged by playwright and activist Eve Ensler, people are still talking.

And that's exactly what local producers of the performance at Guild Hall in East Hampton on Saturday are hoping for: Raising consciousness about violence against women, while simultaneously raising money for The Retreat -- a nonprofit organization based in East Hampton that provides shelter, counseling, advocacy and support for victims of domestic abuse.

The benefit performance, which features actresses Brooke Shields, Julie White and Blythe Danner, will take place in association with V-Day -- a not-for-profit organization founded by Ensler that demands the end of violence against women and girls.

"There's so much violence against women. There's so much that's not celebrated," says event co-producer Minerva Scelza. "Anyone that has a woman in their life that they love -- their mother, grandmother, girlfriend or wife -- this is a moment to absolutely celebrate her."

ABOUT THE PERFORMANCE

"The Vagina Monologues" is based on more than 200 interviews Ensler conducted with women on experiences 'down there.' From the rape of Bosnian women refugees to a rant about tampons and OB/GYN tools, the vignettes ping-pong between the horrifying, hilarious and raunchy.

Saturday's performance will maintain its original material in total, says Lisa Leguillou, who co-directs the play along with Tony-winning director Joe Mantello. Audience members can expect a stage with three stools and a microphone. Actresses will be dressed in black and expose their bare feet -- adding to the intimate experience of the show.

"This is going to be a special night. This is definitely going to touch people and make a difference," she says. "It will be very moving. It will be shocking. Funny. Thought-provoking."

WHAT CELEBS SAY

Performing in the monologues is a first for Blythe Danner, the accomplished actress most recently known for her role in "Meet the Parents" and its sequels.

"I am so happy to be helping out with 'The Vagina Monologues'," she says. "There will always be women in need. It's as timely as when it was written; maybe more so."

Brooke Shields, who has taken part in the show several times in New York, California and Hawaii, says the fact that the event takes place in the Hamptons indicates that violence touches everyone.

"We socially profile often, and we think that if you are in a certain socio-economic environment, you are exempt from abuse," she says.

But beyond the charitable component of the event, the entertainment is just as poignant.

"We didn't get up there and preach and attack. . . . We get the point across without being heavy-handed or angry," she says. "You walk away with a message, and you get to decide what kind of message you take away."

RAISING AWARENESS

Ensler allows groups around the world to produce the Obie Award-winning play February to April of each year. The groups use almost all of the proceeds from ticket sales toward local anti-violence projects and programs for women and girls.

Since 1998, V-Day events have raised $80 million, performed in more than 140 countries and translated into more than 48 languages.

This zeitgeist fervor is shared by celebrities who have appeared in past performances, including Kate Winslet, Glenn Close, Meryl Streep, Whoopi Goldberg, Jane Fonda and Queen Latifah.

"Have we ended violence? Absolutely not," Ensler says."

But what the monologues have done is make progress -- with performances in areas Ensler says she "would have never dreamed," such as Mongolia and the Congo.

"It is so inspirational to me to see this kind of worldwide movement," she says. "I do believe if we keep going we will open enough minds, and we will raise consciousness."

'The Vagina Monologues'

WHEN | WHERE 8 p.m. Saturday at Guild Hall, 158 Main St., East Hampton.

COST $25, $50 and $125. Premium seating is $250. Advance purchasing encouraged in advance. Tickets will also be available for purchase at the door -- cash only.

INFO 631-574-1009

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