Stone Soup Theatre, along Stone Way North, offers both educational classes for adults and children and one-act performances for the general public. However, the word "educational" takes on a different connotation when the children start asking what a "vagina" is.
What spurred such a question? The theater's presentation of Eve Ensler's "The Vagina Monologues."
A celebration of women
After the book's publication in 1998, theaters began adapting it to stage, using the hundreds of interviews the author conducted with women all over the world. But this is not a male-bashing production or a feminist showcase.
"The Vagina Monologues" offers a celebration of female sexuality, addressing womanhood, sexual prejudice, homophobia and the exploitation of women. This last theme is illustrated by one of the six actors whose character shared her gruesome account of being raped in a Bosnian camp.
"A lot of people haven't seen the 'Monologues,' and it is a history-changing type of material," said Stone Soup's artistic director and founder Maureen Miko. "In other words, you take a taboo subject and you make it not taboo anymore. It's kind of a dirty subject, but the author takes this material and makes you enjoy and appreciate really the world as a whole. I mean, without a vagina we don't have birth."
The one-and-a-half hour play uses material from Ensler's manuscript with some original script added. For instance, one humorous remark involved a 70-something woman who had given up on achieving an orgasm because of an embarrassing teenage incident. Like any Seattleite, "she went to therapy" to resolve her youth-seeded issue.
The play also has its political qualities, such as when it claims that a high percentage of homeless women have been in someway sexually abused in their lives.
"The 'Monologues' can be political in nature, but it also aches your heart," Miko said. " When I perform, I'm hearing noises from the audience that you don't often hear in a crowd because it hits home."
An intimate production
Miko first saw the 'Monologues' in a 1,200-seat theater house in London. Yet, she thought the 49-seat Stone Soup Theatre would be perfect for the production.
"The intimacy of Stone Soup matches the intimacy of the material. The people are so close, they are right up next to us," she said.
"Monologues" director Charlotte Tiencken agrees that Stone Soup's venue is perfect for the play.
"I think 'The Vagina Monologues' needs this type of intimacy in order for it to work," Tiencken said. "I love the small, intimate atmosphere of the theater.
According to Tiencken, the play was cast with a diverse group of women in terms of age, ethnicity and body type. Stone Soup drama instructor Roger Thompkins, who will direct "A Christmas Carol" this December, believes that by hosting "The Vagina Monologues" the theater proves both its diversity and non-exclusivity.
"The parents of the kids I teach during the day here realize that we are not dirty, old men and women trying to corrupt their children," Thompkins said. "We are just giving them instructions on what acting and theater is about. And sometimes you do a show and it's titled 'Vagina Monologues,' and sometimes you do a show and it's titled 'Annie.' They are both viable pieces of theater.... We're not trying to make a statement here; we're just trying to do shows."
Thompkins, an artist-in-residence at Wallingford's Good Shepherd Center, believes that the diversity of the plays held at Stone Soup Theatre and its community attitude is what helps the theater thrive.
"It's really the spirit of theater at Stone Soup," Thompkins stated. "It's not our convention; it's our invention."
"The Vagina Monologues" will run through Saturday, Nov. 20, with 8 p.m. shows Thursday through Saturday and a 3 p.m. matinee on Saturday. Stone Soup Theatre will present the "Monologues" once again beginning Jan. 8. For ticket reservations, call 633-1883.