Women against violence

Local theater group BaMatMaBat takes up the V-Day cause with its performance of 'A Memory, a Monologue, a Rant and a Prayer'

When Eve Ensler wrote and began performing The Vagina Monologues just over seven years ago, she likely had little idea of the impact her performance would have on audiences worldwide. Not only did it become a smash hit and award-winning play, Ensler's work has also given rise to V-Day, a three-month annual global campaign to stop violence against women. From January through March, groups around the world, including New York City, Cairo, Brussels, New Delhi, London, Mumbai and Paris, perform Ensler's plays to increase awareness of violence against women and raise money for charities and organizations whose aim is its prevention. The campaign has now reached Jerusalem, and taking up the cause is a new theater group called BaMatMaBat. Co-founded by American olim Talia Weiss and Dede (pronounced Dee Dee) Komisar, both 25, BaMatMaBat uses theater to foster discussion of social, religious and political issues. "We use our stage as a platform for change," says Weiss, who is gearing up for her group's performance next week. The show, called A Memory, a Monologue, a Rant and a Prayer, is an award-winning compilation of essays that was written by women and men from around the world, and edited by Ensler. The performance portrays violence against women in various cultural settings while highlighting the courage, strength and insight that the characters embody. While the original manuscript includes 30 monologues, BaMatMaBat has selected 11 for its show. The monologues differ in location and style, but each is powerful in its own right. One monologue deals with the random rape of a girl going grocery shopping while another portrays Imett St. Guillen, a John Jay criminal justice student in Manhattan, whose gruesome rape and murder shook the city two years ago. Men's voices also feature in the monologues. One male voice details the interview of a prostitute in the Far East and her reflections on life as a sex worker. Another male voice recounts his experiences growing up in a home where all of the women have been abused. Overall, the performances are gritty and real, heavy and seemingly macabre. The idea is to awaken people's senses and invoke emotion. "People don't want to go into a classroom and be lectured on rape statistics," says Weiss. "But they will come to an interesting show. It resonates more when you see something." The show's Jerusalem venue is Daila, a downtown outreach center that brings together NGOs and activists, which has donated its space for the performance. All of the proceeds from ticket sales will go to Circle of Health International, an organization that facilitates women's health care in crisis settings. In addition to BaMatMaBat's performance, the Jerusalem Rape Crisis Center will give a presentation, and El-Halev, a women's martial arts group, will lead a self-defense workshop. "We hope to raise awareness about violence against women that's going on," says Weiss. "But we also hope to provide self-defense techniques, and places you can go if you're a victim; that's where the Rape Crisis Center comes in." Weiss and Komisar are happy to lend their hands to a cause they see as not only worthwhile, but integral to the character of their theater group. "Violence against women is a taboo. It's called 'taboo' because no one talks about it," says Weiss. "Our goal is to spark dialogue about these issues and get people to focus on them. We have no political or religious platform, it's just to get people talking." A Memory, a Monologue, a Rant and a Prayer will be performed on Thursday, March 27, 8 p.m., Daila, Rehov Shlomzion Hamalka 4. Info: info@daila.net NIS 50.