St. John’s Antigua- After a three-year run, Women of Antigua (WOA) presented their final rendition of the provocative play When A Woman Moans - before their hiatus – to a full crowd at the Multipurpose Cultural and Exhibition Centre on Sunday.
When A Woman Moans is Antigua & Barbuda’s answer to Eve Ensler’s wildly successful and prolific Vagina Monologues. However, the WOA production is the distinctly Antiguan & Barbudan response, unabashedly exploring the women of the country’s distinct experience and battle for the end of violence against women and the continued battle for sexual freedom.
This year’s play invited the audience to be voyeurs into the secret lives of Caribbean woman, exploring their desires, struggles and strengths through 20 vignettes written and performed by women throughout Antigua & Barbuda.
The skits ran the gamut of artistic styles and ranged from the comical to the uncomfortable throughout the evening’s journey. The play’s themes examined topics including abortion, domestic violence, suicide and lack of fathers in homes, to name a few.
Writer, actress and co-founder of WOA Zahra Airall believes that she believes the play has “shocked” viewers into increased awareness about the issues of violence against women in the country, saying, “We have accomplished conversation … Change begins through conversation. So people are going to talk about it. Couples are going to have conversations with each other, parents who are there with their daughters are going to have conversations and that’s where it starts.” She added, “We are happy that we have been able to shock Antiguans into awareness.”
In a scene titled “Because I Did Not Say No”, written by Airall and performed by Melissa Elliott, the audience was forced to journey the emotional rollercoaster of a victim of date rape. We follow the actress as she reconciles the dual feeling of victimisation and guilt associated with the violence perpetrated against her.
Motherhood and the role of mothers were also explored in the satirical yet poignant act titled “Wax On, Wax Off”, written by Mickel Brann and performed by Marcella Andre and Floree Williams. The skit tackled the many pressures placed on mothers, including the societal expectation to serve as mother, provider and sexual being — all against the backdrop of enduring a Brazilian wax.
As with the inspiration for the play the Vagina Monologues, When a Woman Moans also delves into the sometimes uncomfortable and taboo topic of sex and sexuality. Actress Sharon Simon acted out the ecstasy of sex on the stage with Linisa George’s “More”.
A switch in the modus operandi for this year’s play was the addition of three male voices to the cast in a special feature presentation that closed out the proceedings. In a soliloquy one of the male performers described why a woman moans – from the male perspective.
This was a fundamental departure from the previous productions, which were touted as being the voice for scores of women who are voiceless in society. In response to naysayers who would argue that When A Woman Moans should be by women for women, Airall declared that men are an integral part to solving the issues of violence against women, saying, “Women don’t rape women.”
“It’s a partnership … We are in no way excluding the men at all and it is important for us to recognise the good men out there. There are so many bad man out there, but we can’t allow what the insensitive, ignorant or brutal men do to overshadow the good men that are out there,” Airall noted.
WOA is taking a hiatus from the stage and production to delve further into the activism portion of the organisation. Along with their continued efforts to end violence against women, the organisation is expanding its scope to including, empowering women and young girls, HIV/AIDS awareness and bringing light to child molestation in Antigua & Barbuda.
Women of Antigua is a non-profit organisation begun in 2008 in response to a string of serial attacks against women on island. The organisation is a part of the V-Day movement, which raises awareness to the plight of violence against women around the world.