TRISH SUGAREK has a theory.
“I believe every director has a short list of plays they’d really like to direct,” she says. “The Vagina Monologues is on my list.”
That wish is coming true. Sugarek’s theater company, the Rialto Actors Theatre Performing Arts Kompany, or RATPAK, will present The Vagina Monologues at the Bay Street Theatre at Club One beginning Feb. 15.
Sugarek, an actor, director and playwright, arrived in Savannah last September, bringing 30 years of theater experience with her.
She began acting in 1978 after two years of study at the prestigious, Tony Award-winning South Coast Repertory Theatre in California. While in Los Angeles, she worked in theater and films, and later in New Orleans worked in television and radio.
She began writing plays in 1996 and has written 13 on subjects ranging from prison to children’s fables. Three of the plays have been published.
Directing was a natural progression of acting, Sugarek says, adding she loves all aspects of theater. “My way of giving back to the theater is by teaching,” she says. “I’ve taught classes in character development and scene study.
“My only downside with Savannah was the lack of community theater,” Sugarek says. “I was thrilled when I came back to Savannah and so many theater companies had opened. It was an answer to my prayers.”
Almost immediately after arriving in Savannah, Sugarek appeared in Savannah Community Theatre’s 84 Charing Cross Road. When the Rape Crisis Center began looking for someone to direct its annual production of The Vagina Monologues, Savannah Community Theatre’s director Tom Coleman recommended Sugarek.
“Every year, the Rape Crisis Center has done The Vagina Monologues as a fundraiser,” Sugarek says.
“Every dime from the performances on Feb. 15 and 16 will go to the Rape Crisis Center.”
But there are some major differences in this year’s production. It will continue through March 22, and it’s being produced as a full-fledged production with costumes and scenery.
The Vagina Monologues was written by Eve Ensler. “She interviewed more than 200 women and out of that came The Vagina Monologues,” Sugarek says.
“Some of the monologues are very heartbreaking, some are really funny. Every woman can relate to it.”
As Ensler traveled the word to present her play, women told her their own stories. That led Ensler to found V-Day, which is dedicated to ending violence against women and girls throughout the world.
In addition to doing the monologues as they are published, theater companies are allowed to choose to do one of seven new monologues. Sugarek chose They Beat the Girl Out of my Boy...or so They Tried.
“It’s a transgender piece,” she says. “It’s the most poignant, beautiful piece.”
A new monologue is added every year, and this year’s addition is Welcome to the Wetlands: New Orleans is the Vagina of America. “It’s a tribute to the women of Hurricane Katrina,” Sugarek says.
The cast of 13 is truly diverse. “I had a ton of women turn out to audition,” Sugarek says. “Ethnicity is an exciting thing to me, and the cast includes Asian, Haitian, African American and one woman who is Korean and African American. They range in age from mid-20s to 67.”
The cast also contains three men in the roles of trangendered males to females. Sugarek says the cast is working hard and she has no worries about the production.
“I’ve been in theater for 30 years and have directed for 10,” she says. “Nothing really ruffles me any more.”
Club One has donated use of the space for rehearsals and performances. “The Rape Crisis Center is thrilled because they want to do a better job serving the gay and lesbian community,” Sugarek says.
“Club One wants to develop the theater,” she says.
“We’re building a season.”
Club One’s acting manager Travis Coles is co-producing the show and playing a role. “We want to expand the space and use it for more than drag shows,” he says.
“We can seat up to 200 to 210 people.
“For our first production, we wanted to do The Vagina Monologues,” Coles says. “If this production goes well, we’ll look at more productions.
“They had trouble casting the transgender roles,” he says. “A couple of them went to some of our entertainers here, and I kind of got suckered into doing the third one.”
Coles is not transgendered, so wearing women’s clothing onstage has been challenging. But he’s enjoying performing. “I’ve done a little acting,” he says. “My main interest is singing and playing the clarinet.”
The production could draw people who have never been to Club One before. “Hopefully people who shy away from Club One will be enlightened and come out to see this,” Coles says.
Normally, Club One is closed to anyone under 21.
However, on Sunday, Feb. 24, all traces of alcohol will be removed from the third floor of Club One so younger students can attend a performance.
Theresa-Michelle Walker is a professor of theater at Savannah State University. “I’m also directing a show right now,” she says. “Trish said, ‘I need you on board,” so we worked out a schedule so I could direct and still be in this.”
Walker is enjoying the differences in this production.
“The fact that we have guys in the show is totally different,” she says. “I’ve never even heard of it.
“Also, we have such a range of ages and professions,” Walker says. “I’ve always seen it at colleges where it was performed by women in their 20s, and having women from their 60s to their early 20s is wonderful. I hope everyone will look past the title and come see a good thing. Anyone who likes the performing arts will love it.”
Sugarek is already planning future productions and enjoying her experience with this one. “I’ve been wanting to direct The Vagina Monologues since it was written,” she says. “I’ve salivated over this show, and it just fell into my lap.
“I believe that every woman, not matter what age, 12 to 100, should see this, mainly because we all have vaginas,” Sugarek says. “To quote one of the monologues, ‘Many women haven’t been ‘down there’ since 1953.”
Performances of The Vagina Monologues will be presented Feb. 15, 16, 21, 22, 29 and March 1, 7, 8, 21 and 22 at 7:30 p.m. and Feb. 24 and March 2 at 3 p.m. at the Bay Street Theatre, in Club One at the corner of Bay and Jefferson. The first two performances are presented as a fundraiser for the Rape Crisis Center of the Coastal Empire. Admission for those is $25 for adults and $18 for seniors and students. Call 233-3000 or visit www.rccsav.org for reservations for the fundraiser. Admission for other performances is $20 adults and $15 seniors and students. For reservations, call 232-0200 or 925-8590 or visit www.writeratplay.com and click on “Vagina Monolgues”.