Michelle Reynoso draws strength from her mother. The Gavilan
student, 21, has always been inspired by the strength of a woman
who survived 15 years of an abusive relationship before finding her
own way out. Still, it’s not a story she wants other mothers to
have to tell.
Michelle Reynoso draws strength from her mother. The Gavilan student, 21, has always been inspired by the strength of a woman who survived 15 years of an abusive relationship before finding her own way out. Still, it’s not a story she wants other mothers to have to tell.
“I don’t want any other woman to have to go through what my mother went through, the indignant things she went through,” said Reynoso, who directs a performance of “The Vagina Monologues” opening Friday night at Gavilan College. The proceeds will benefit the battered women’s shelter Emmaus House.
Reynoso, who has no declared major right now, became involved with the play as a cast member last year, and stepped in to fill the director’s chair of a play that discusses everything from short skirts and gynecological visits to birth and rape.
“When we first thought about putting on the play we didn’t know (what the reaction would be),” said Julianne Palma, a theater teacher at Gavilan and the play’s producer. “We were all nervous, but there was just such an outpouring of thanks and gratitude and love – of women feeling connected to other women.”
Gavilan student and rape crisis counselor Amy Molica brought the idea for the play to school counseling department employee Leslie Tenney in the 2003-2004
school year, and Tenney took up her cry.
Tenney stepped in as the school liaison with playwright Eve Ensler’s V-Day organization in order to receive permission for putting on the play, which now appears at more than 610 colleges and universities in the United States alone and in more than 1,100 cities worldwide.
The proceeds of performances are required to go to charities that support women’s services as part of the organization’s terms for allowing use of the play, and the group also looks for student involvement in performances as a gauge of the production’s fitness for a certain campus.
Approval in hand, last year’s cast raised nearly $4,500 to benefit rape and sexual assault services at Community Solutions in Gilroy and Morgan Hill. This year they’re hoping to do the same, building an initial operating budget for Emmaus House.
Rehearsals for the play began during Gavilan’s winter session, a three-week break in classes between semesters, said cast member Isabel de Anda, a veteran of productions for El Teatro Campesino in San Juan Bautista. De Anda will make her first appearance on the Gavilan stage with a monologue entitled “My Vagina Was My Village,” an account of a Bosnian woman’s rape during warfare.
“I’m very proud to be a part of this production and to be amongst these women,” said de Anda. “A lot of them have already inspired me. They’ve given me strength and hope, and made me feel that I can expand into the kind of woman I’d like to become: a strong woman who can take care of herself but doesn’t forget to help others.”
The 22-year-old, who lives at home with her mother and three younger siblings, found the play’s central message of survival carried through to its cast.
“We’ve ended up having some pretty deep conversations at production meetings and practices,” said de Anda. “We’ve all been through our own difficult times and even traumatic experiences, but we’re all here, and we’re all doing things for ourselves.”
De Anda will begin delivering her monologue in chic loungewear Friday night, in keeping with director Reynoso’s theme, described by her as “dim lights, a smoky lounge with martinis and women talking about their vaginas.”
The shock value may draw people in, Reynoso said, but the play’s message is what she hopes will stick. And the message will continue to be shared, said Tenney.
“As long as there’s a need in the community and as long as we feel we can be effective in raising funds, we’ll keep going,” she said. “I think that the baton will continue to be passed.”
Performances of the Vagina Monologues will take place Friday and Saturday March 4 and 5 at 7pm in the Gavilan Theater. Tickets are $12 at the door and $8 for students and seniors. At a special donation performance on Monday, March 7, playgoers can give a gift of cash or bedding, such as blankets, sheets and comforters, in exchange for admission.