After ‘Vagina Monologues,’ imitators speak up

May 24, 2014

“The Prostate Dialogues” is titled to bring to mind the popular and often-performed “The Vagina Monologues.” As empowering and groundbreaking as Eve Ensler’s 1996 anthology of personal stories was, it gave rise to many other similarly titled works over the years, with much of the same approach if not subject matter:

“The Hijabi Monologues”: Created by three University of Chicago masters students at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies in 2006, it was designed for Muslim women to tell their stories. One of its creators, Sahar Ullah calls it “the inverse” of “The Vagina Monologues” in that it takes the most public aspect of a hijabi woman’s identity and uses it to “let the whole woman have a voice.”

“Me Too Monologues”: An annual show about identity, written, performed and produced by members of the Duke University community about life on campus. Begun in 2009, it continues each year with new shows about personal experience that touch on sexuality, class, religion and gender. Last presented in February.

“The Monologues of My Hips”: A dance and theater piece presented in March at the Harold Washington Cultural Center in Chicago honoring “the beauty of women all shapes and sizes by exploring how they see themselves and how the world sees them,” according to the presenting LaNita Joseph Dance & Cultural Center.

“Confessions of a Welfare Mom: The Monologues”: An urban anthology series that allows women from all walks of life to share their personal experiences. Past productions have been staged in Baton Rouge, New Orleans and Atlanta.

“Ruth Draper’s Monologues”: Ruth Draper (1884-1956) was an influential solo dramatic performer who set the stage for solo shows ever since. Four of her 40 or so pieces — as a high society woman, a hostess, a debutante and a poise instructor — were collected in a spring performance by Annette Bening at the Geffen Playhouse in Los Angeles.

“The Outsiders’ Monologues”: A production at Davidson College in North Carolina last month featured 29 pieces written by students and performed by student actors on topics “from education to religion, homosexuality to asexuality and parental absence to family alcoholism,” says the Web site HerCampus.com.

“The Regina Monologues”: The wittiest use of Ensler’s title came from a 2006 West End play by Rebecca Russell and Jenny Wafer about the six wives of Henry VIII, set in the 21st century. (It was also the title of an episode of “The Simpsons” in Season 15.)

“The Gaza Monologues”: In 2010, the Palestinian Ashtar Theatre put together a play using the voices of children from Gaza discussing the 22-day war there that began in December 2008. The script was sent out worldwide and, according to the theater, was performed on Oct. 17, 2010, by more than 1,500 youngsters in more than 50 cities in 36 countries. It has been performed internationally ever since.

“The Deafhood Monologues”: A collection of deaf experiences and stories, presented in American Sign Language. Its next performance is planned in Seattle next month. It was created by Ella Mae Lentz and produced by Deafhood Foundation, an organization based in California.

“The Penis Monologues”: The inevitable answer to Eve Ensler has been used as a title by more than one production. Penn State puts on a parody with that name; its 14th annual edition was staged in February. Chicago writer and filmmaker Messiah Equiano presented his own version with that title in the Windy City earlier this year. But the most attention came to a Broadway production last year that played more like a symposium of ex-NBA stars speaking frankly about their private lives and their privates. A Miami performance in December was filmed for a segment on HBO’s “Real Sports With Bryant Gumbel.”

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