ech Players participate in V-Day 2001 College Initiative;

Playwright Eve Ensler was on a mission when she penned a play about women's sexuality and their vulnerability to violence. She's still on a mission - and so are the Tech Players and more than 200 other college groups as they participate in the "V-Day 2001 College Initiative," a national funds- and awareness-raising event on Valentine's Day benefiting groups seeking to end violence against women.

In Cookeville, V-Day includes a performance of Ensler's Obie award-winning play "The Vagina Monologues" at Tennessee Tech University's Backdoor Playhouse. Proceeds will benefit anti-domestic and sexual violence initiatives in the community.

The February production will be simultaneously performed at three other Tennessee campuses -- Vanderbilt University and the UT campuses in Knoxville and Chattanooga.

Often accompanied by public forums about violence against women, V-Day began in 1998 with the play's opening featuring acclaimed actresses like Glenn Close, Whoopi Goldberg and Susan Sarandon. It created nationwide media attention.

Predictably, the play caused a huge splash. People were shocked, outraged, embarrassed -- and that was before they even got past the play's title. Once they actually saw or read the play, many came to respect its frank approach to women's sexuality and its call to end violence against women.

Organizers realize the play could create controversy, but they feel that the cause is worth it and that the setting - a college campus - is appropriate.

"This play speaks to me on an emotional level," says Mark Creter, director of the Backdoor Playhouse. "And it also shows the power of language. Art is not always going to make you feel comfortable. Theater can make you think about issues."

Members of TTU's Commission on the Status of Women, which is co-sponsoring the play, are planning public forums to accompany the performances.

"The commission is sensitive to the controversy the name and play will create, but members feel it's important to support efforts to raise awareness about women's issues," says Colleen Hays, chairperson of the commission. "We also see V-Day as an opportunity to bring educational programming about violence against women and sexuality issues to campus and to help raise money for violence- and abuse-prevention programs. For those who wish to participate, college campuses should be open forums for discussing delicate, controversial issues."

Auditions for "The Vagina Monologues" are set for 7-10 p.m., Thursday-Friday, Jan. 11-12, in the Backdoor Playhouse. Acting auditions are scheduled for both nights; dance auditions are scheduled from 8 to 10 p.m. Thursday only. The play has frank and often graphic discussions of women's sexuality. Actors under the age of 18 may only audition with written permission from a parent or guardian. Roles are available only for female actors. Character ages range from young adults to senior citizens and every age in between. Men are welcome to work in any capacity but acting. Scripts are available for 24-hour loan from the University Library or from the Backdoor Playhouse by calling 372-3478.
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