Adulation in the media, a benefit at the Hammerstein Ballroom, the participation of stars like Calista Flockhart and Winona Ryder – Eve Ensler’s The Vagina Monologues was so triumphantly ubiquitous last year that it’s hard to believe the Obie-winning show’s return to New York would cause any discomfort other than a scarcity of tickets. But it seems that no matter how many times this particular word is said – giving the lie to Lenny Bruce’s theory about repetition – it still makes people blush.
David Stone, Ensler’s producer for the play, which opens at the Westside Theatre October 3, says that an executive at The New Yorker paled when he saw a layout featuring the show’s ad. Asked if there was a problem, Stone says, the executive responded, “I have a problem with the word vagina in 72-point type.”
The offenses continue: A notice at Manhattan Plaza, a housing complex near the theater, reads, “Are you as disgusted by this as I am?” referring to the banner in front of the Westside. When Stone’s assistant faxed Fordham University’s career center looking for an intern, the center replied that it would post his request if he removed the title of the play. A woman who lives near the theater called Stone to complain about the play’s “vulgar” title. “When I defended it,” Stone recalls, “she said, ‘That’s because you’re an asshole and a prick.’ “
CNN avoided the title altogether in a recent CNN & Entertainment Weekly segment on Ensler: Interviewer Carol Lin substituted “a part of the female anatomy” for “vagina” when she introduced the play. “In this case,” a CNN spokeswoman explains, “the network decided not to use the name.” “It was a lovely piece,” Ensler says, laughing. “I wish they had said the word. Vagina. There. I said it for them.”