Malcolmson sees monologues as opportunity to reactivate oral storytelling

Derek Kilbourn

Sounder News

Tuesday, September 16 2014

This coming weekend will see the 10th Anniversary performance of the Gabriola Players presentation of The Vagina Monologues.

Among those Gabriola women performing will be Sheila Malcolmson.

Asked if she has ever performed the monologues before, Malcolmson said no, this is going to be her first time on stage.

“I just got sucked in.”

She said as she is already going outside her comfort zone in seeking a move to federal politics, “I thought why not go all in and try all the uncomfortable things all at once. I was on a roll already.”

Malcolmson is seeking to be the NDP candidate for the new Nanaimo-Ladysmith riding in the next federal election.

“I saw [the monologues] 10 years ago on Gabriola; I knew nothing about it before then. 

“I found it extremely powerful, in some cases from people I’d known for a long time and from others I didn’t know. It has a powerful effect of instant intimacy and connection.

“I thought the people that stood on stage 10 years ago were extremely brave and [that experience] accelerated my friendships with some of them as a result.”

Malcolmson has two parts in this year’s performance of the monologues, both completely different from the other.

She describes one as being “right-out-there fun and pretty outrageous, and the other one is sad and dark. It is a violence-against-women role that is sadly very contemporary. I’ll be switching gears in a major way.”

She said she thinks society is in an interesting time where encountering both domestic violence, and violence against women as an instrument of war, is more immediately available to us by virtue of social media.

“We don’t want the reality of war and domestic violence to be censored, but there is the possibility of there being a numbing.

“I do think the experience of direct storytelling of someone who has had these experiences has a particular power and importance at a time when we are at risk of becoming numb from the barrage.”

Every story in The Vagina Monologues is true, but those performing are not the people to whom the original events happened.

One of the strengths of the monologues is the in-person connection between the audience, the performer and the true story being told.

As Malcolmson said, “In this case, I’m not telling a story that happened to me, but because of the powerful storytelling, all the actors have the opportunity to be the intermediary for those stories. My experience 10 years ago was the actors were able to make me believe it was their story. That has the chance to move people in a different way than getting it on the 11o’clock news. I think of storytelling...telling the same stories over and over again, with a community, is something coastal people have done for a long time.”

She also hopes that in something like the monologues Gabriola can reactivate that tradition of oral storytelling to open conversations that might not happen otherwise.

Malcolmson pointed out, “It is easy for us in a rural situation, with how much access we have to the rest of the world...to get isolated in front of our computers, watching pretty horrific things. To hear those and feel those in isolation I think we have to be tender about that. 

“I think the more times we can come together to talk about things that scare us, and even coming together in community to be together when we go to those tough issues, is part of overcoming that isolation. And a lot of this play is completely celebratory and joyous and funny. I’m really looking forward to sitting with the community and hearing those great stories about feminine power and poking fun at ourselves and celebrating the divine feminine. There is a lot of that energy on this island. We want people to…balance out the tough stuff with some good belly laughs as well.”

And men should not be afraid to show and enjoy the show as well. Malcolmson said, “The ones that I’ve seen [the shows], there is no beating up on guys at all. I think there can be trepidation around feminist theatre, making sure everyone is included as an audience member. 

“This was meant to be uniting. I think the chosen pieces are going to be fun ones for the community. We really hope to see people out supporting community theatre.”

Friday, September 19 and Saturday, September 20 the Gabriola Players present a 10th Anniversary Reprisal of The Vagina Monologues by Eve Ensler: Friday at 7:00 p.m. and Saturday at 2:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. at the Rollo Centre. Tickets $12 at North Road Sports or online at gabriolaplayers.ca..