Video Clip: Pre-Show

The Vagina Monologues Pre-Show

As the audience entered, three women dressed in black appeared to be cleaning the stage. Their tools, however, were bright red, such as a red feather duster, red rags, a red broom. They also were folding and trying on clothes which had been dyed red. This included red pointe shoes, blood red baby dresses, and so forth. Their folding and cleaning was to be at times frenetic and at other times, slow, while the women were perhaps dreaming of other things beyond the activities of traditional “women’s work.” I also asked them to estrange these activities by, for example, using the broom to sweep up a pile of clothes, or to clean the wall behind them which showed the photograph red dresses taken by Jeff Depta. All three women I chose have had extensive experience with ballet, so all three of them knew how to move onstage with purpose and grace.

The soundtrack I chose for this performance was all women singers, my aim being to be women responding to their feelings about men. I also wanted music from different eras and with different styles. Here are the tracks and why they were chosen:

Tori Amos, “I’m not in Love.” This was chosen by one of the “Cleaning Women,” Carissa Schneider. It is a haunting version of the seventies song that began the pre-show on a contemplative note.

Chaka Kahn “I’m Every Woman.” This song which might have done well to stay in the eighties where it belonged, turned up on the Bridget Jones soundtrack and was suggested to me by another one of the “Cleaning Women,” Carolyn Paine. I liked the upbeat “I am Woman, Hear me Roar” attitude of the song and how it served as counterpoint to the drudgery of the women’s activities.

Dionne Warwick, “I’ll Never Fall in Love Again.” Who can resist the Burt Bacharach lyrics, “What do you get when you kiss a guy? You get enough germs to catch pneumonia—and when you do, he’ll never phone ya!” A fantastically upbeat song about the impossibility of love which I thought worked well as the women went about their chores.

Nina Simone, “I Put a Spell on You.” Tess Brown, my third and final “Cleaning Woman,” did a fantastic bit to this soulful and lingering song as she turned her back to the audience and very slowly tied her hair back with a piece of red cloth.

Alanis Morrisette, “You Oughta Know.” The pace of the chores was increased and the women seemed more and more frustrated with their work as the piece ended.

Here is an image of some of the red things we created. My mother made the blood red baby dresses and bibs. I had a pot on my stove simmering in dye a duster, rags, pointe shoes, baby booties, etc. like some sort of strange red stew. It was one of those times when I think about how much I enjoy my sometimes unusual job.