[ON STAGE]Letting 'there' do the talking

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[ON STAGE]Letting 'there' do the talking

The word "vagina" is more than a little difficult to deal with. In Korea's adult chat rooms and soft porn movies, people employ slang terms and colloquialisms for that part of the female anatomy. In everyday conversations, Koreans resort to nonoffending euphemisms like "there" or "you-know-what," or just convey their meaning with an awkward smile.

In Korea, sexuality, and female sexuality in particular, has yet to be explored in a candid but undegrading way. That sort of repression may have existed to a small degree in London in the mid-1990s when Eve Ensler first staged "The Vagina Monologues."

Ensler, drawing on more than 200 interviews from a diverse group of women in British society, adroitly depicted in the original "Monologues" how women feel about their sexual identities.

Lee Gi-na, who also produced the Korean adaptation of "The Rocky Horror Show," adapted the play into a Korean context. Lee drew on interviews and encounters she had with Koreans for her material.

The 100-minute play, including several re-enactments of interviews, poetry readings and witty discussions, is hilarious and audience-interactive throughout. A monologue performed by the actress Seo Ju-hee, who starred in the film "Flower Island," is compellingly real and stirring.

The stage is simple but refined. It consists of a standing microphone, a small coffee table and two easy chairs. Seo brought a surprise guest on during the play: Ye Ji-won, who performed "The Monologues" in the play's last run at the Seoul Arts Center. Seo asked her guest, "If your vagina got dressed, what would it wear?" When Ye responded, "A small fan," the audience burst into laughter, which barely subsided throughout the rest of the show.

Seo then put Ye on the spot by asking her to share the details of her first menstrual experience. After that, Seo asked, "If your vagina could talk, what would it say?" Ye's innocent response, "I miss the light," evidently left most of the men in the audience in the dark.

All in all, the theater was filled with gales of laughter, though punctuated by a few serious moments.

Part of the proceeds will go to shelters for battered wives and the former comfort women.

For more information, call 02-516-1501.

by Park Soo-mee

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