An interview with Pollyanna Forshaw, “The Vagina Monologues” cast member.


Following my interview with Rose last week, (An interview with Rose Cooper, director of VDAY CENTRAL COAST 2017) I had a conversation with renowned local actress, Pollyanna Forshaw. Like Rose, Polly was an original cast member when “The Vagina Monologues” was staged on the Central Coast for V-Day 2008, so I thought it would be interesting to have her perspective; what is it like to revisit the show in 2017?

ED:

Hi Polly, would you like to tell us how you first learn about the VDay movement, why you think it’s important, and what you think have been its most important achievements to date? What does it mean to you, personally?

POLLY:
I first learnt about it through the first production done several years ago. I saw it but wasn’t involved. I also saw a professional performance that was uber-simple… three women in black reading without too much emotional involvement in the words. Violence against women has been used a s a tool in any international, national and domestic situation. When I worked in Timor Leste, many of the women had suffered through the occupation; young girls would bind their breasts so they were not picked out to be randomly raped. Why is it important? For me it is the raising of awareness, not about our bodies per se (I am a child of the 70’s where we were encouraged to know ourselves) but about how it is “used”. That said, I love the celebration of the feminine and this cage we call Body.

ED:

How did you become involved with VDay Wyong 2007/8, and how would you describe your experience?

POLLY:

I realised from the first performance it was an important work on so many levels. When I saw the professional production I felt that much was lost despite the idea that we are only the voices of others’ experiences. Despite my bravura I was a little hesitant about auditioning. But again, the social justice aspect won over my reticence and I was cast to deliver the monologue of the Japanese Comfort Women. It was a moving piece and right at the time many of those women were reliving their experiences in court and in the international media.

ED:
What about it was most memorable for you?

POLLY:
We felt we were making people aware through humour, through shock value, through empathy. It was a huge team involving movement and a live band. 
 
ED:
What prompted you to audition for the “The Vagina Monologues” this year?
POLLY:

I knew Rose was directing and that she would bring an earthiness to the production. When I heaRd it was on in the Rhythm Hut I was doubly wanting to audition as I feel it is the perfect venue to encompass  the authentic and the intimate.   Plus I think more young people will come to this production, and it is their world now and they need to know what goes on in other parts of it. Having said that, I do believe young people today are more aware than we ever were… The money raised will go to education in schools and that too is important as a continuation of the anti-domestic violence programs that need to continue.

ED:
How did you feel about joining the new production. In what ways does it differ from your previous experience?
POLLY:
I am excited and anxious. It is smaller than the last production. It is a cosier team because of our low-key rehearsals and getting to know each other. Both productions were great and full of talented women but I feel this has more of the initial ethos behind Eve Ensler’s ideas. I love percussion and the gravitas and pulses it brings and while we had an amazing female band last time (The Housework Can Wait) I am looking forward to drums and flute.

ED:

What do you think of this show generally; how would you describe it to someone who hasn’t seen “The Vagina Monologues” before? What are your impressions, and what can audiences expect?

POLLY:
If you have never seen it and even if you have, you will laugh, cry, be moved, be angry, be sad and yes, sometimes you will feel mighty uncomfortable. You might feel: really, does this need to be explored and said? I think it is valuable to open up those conversations and not back away from them as we did so often in the past. Doesn’t mean we have to agree with everything… but as Socrates pointed out: the unexamined life is not worth living (or something like that) and let’s face it more than 50% of our population have a lot to examine on the emotional, physical, mental levels. It is going to be wonderful; plenty of talent. I am grateful to the young, bold ones who are media savvy, energetic and dedicated. I feel privileged to be part of it all. Very, very privileged.

ED:

Is there anything about this year’s spotlight that particularly speaks to you? Are there any other monologues in the show that you have especially strong feelings about in any way?

POLLY:
The monologues speak for themselves as women’s experiences. We can all identitfy with at least one of them.The challenge faced by the transgendered I find moving. Are we really civilised? I have never experienced workplace sexual harassment, but know it to a real problem in some environments. For me, the monologue I am presenting has real emotional resonances as a couple of my own children’s births were considered horrific but the amazing miracle of it all over-arches any other memory that is engraved by the experience. The piece brings me back to seeing the small vulnerable and sweet sticky creatures that have become beautiful and courageous women. As we age I think we get soppier!

ED:
What are you hoping VDay Central Coast 2017 will achieve, and what do you hope audiences will take away from it?
POLLY:
Achieve? I am a believer in the drip method of coffee and experience. Again…open the conversation. We talk a lot about the global village, less about a global sisterhood. I hope many young ones and many men will see this and be able to talk about it. However, many of the male partners of my friends who are coming say…It’s not my thing!  I think this is a doco as well as a theatre piece… It’s a shame and I think it’s that word “vagina” they are still hesitant of. Even I would like it to trip off my tongue more readily than it does in some company… whereas puppetry of the penis elicits nary a real response.

ED:
What are your hopes for the future of the VDay movement on the Central Coast and are you optimistic they’ll be realized?

POLLY:
VDay is only part of a broad picture of erasing all violence against all people. Many men are oppressed in one way or another too. It needs brave people like Rose to continue after this event. Maybe it will go to quietness again. We are all involved with other projects but … drip, drip, drip. If one person picks up a brochure, sends $10 off to women in Pakistan raising goats, sends one overseas girl-child to school, stands up for one person in public , stands up for themselves as a woman…
We are not far from the time (a bare half century) when my own single working mother had to have a male guarantor to buy a fridge! I could not believe it at 15 and told the male salesman in no uncertain terms… but …try that today. I faced something similar when buying a new car recently… not on the financial realm but certainly on the “what do you know?” realm. It is only because some strong, brave ones keep at it that anything changes. I thank them.
ED:

Thank you, Polly, for sharing your thoughts and insights with us. I’m looking forward to seeing your performance.

For more information on VDAY CENTRAL COAST and the VDAY movement, visit https://www.facebook.com/groups/1587561004880944/

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"About the Central Coast" is a FREE monthly ezine, supported by an online blog, that provides readers with a one-stop shop for information and reviews on all their favourite theatre groups, bands and artists on and around the Central Coast. Subscription to the magazine is free; just send an email with SUBSCRIBE in the subject line to about@y7mail.com The magazine is distributed by email on the first Thursday of each month. If you have an event you would like me to promote in the magazine, please send details at least three days prior. Items for the blog may be sent any time.
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One Response to An interview with Pollyanna Forshaw, “The Vagina Monologues” cast member.

  1. Pingback: An interview with Carol Campbell, “The Vagina Monologues” cast member. | About the Central Coast

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