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Putnam, Westchester Women Perform Iconic Feminist Play

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Freight House Cafe owner Donna Massaro performs a monologue called "My Angry Vagina."

Nine women took to the stage this weekend to perform three sold-out renditions of Putnam County’s first production of “The Vagina Monologues,” Eve Ensler’s groundbreaking feminist empowerment play.

Over the course of about two hours, divided by a 15-minute intermission, the women performed monologues touching on everything from orgasms and adultery to female genital mutilation and lesbian sexuality.

Ninety percent of proceeds from the play, held at The Freight House Cafe in Mahopac, will be given to the Putnam/Northern Westchester Women’s Resource Center. The remaining 10 percent will be allocated to the V-Day Foundation, the charity started by Ensler that fights for women’s issues around the world.

The performances raised about $2,500 for the women’s resource center, said Donna Massaro, owner of The Freight House Cafe and the woman who pushed to bring the monologues to Putnam County.

“I just didn’t expect it to be so much,” Massaro said. “I thought we were going to have just a few people be on board.”

Women’s Resource Center Executive Director Ann Ellsworth said the donation is a “a relief and a gift.”

“When we get $2,500 dropped on us or close to it, it’s an amazing gift,” she said. “Donations of that kind really help fill the gaps where grants and contracts do not.”

Massaro said she hopes to stage the monologues annually.

“To go back and know that I had the idea … what do they say, wish it, dream it, do it … to be able to be so present at each one of those steps was incredible,” she said.

Performer Lorraine Federico, an actress with the Westchester Collaborative Theater, performed some of the play’s most explicit monologues and said she appreciated the chance to break down some of the walls surrounding the word “vagina.”

“It kind of brings to the forefront the mystery surrounding just the word — it’s taboo, not to be spoken about,” said Federico, who lives in Tarrytown. “[The play] opens up a whole topic of discussion. It’s everything that everyone’s been wanting to discuss for so long and they finally have the forum to do so.”

Putnam’s version of the monologues is the result of Freight House owner Donna Massaro’s push to bring the play to Mahopac after her successful experience performing it in Lake Tahoe, Calif.

Though the play was mostly performed as originally written by Ensler, Massaro did add a slight Putnam County twist: a recounting of the most recent Greater Mahopac-Carmel Chamber of Commerce meeting.

At the meeting, Ellsworth plugged the play, prompting the room of nearly 200 local merchants to find creative ways to incorporate the word “vagina” into their introductions and business pitches, Massaro recalled.

Joanne DePaola, a former director of the Putnam/Northern Westchester Women’s Resource Center, said she’s seen the play performed before in White Plains and New York City, but was excited to see it make its way to Mahopac.

“The Vagina Monologues” is an important way “to continue to raise awareness about women and women’s issues,” DePaola said.

“The more women can fully be who they are, the less they can be victimized,” DePaola said. “It was great to see the community coming out to acknowledge the struggles of women and the joys that women have.”

DePaola organized a group of friends to see the play with her. One of those women was Joy Magee of Putnam Valley, who was seeing the play for the first time.

It seemed like “a fun night out,” Magee said, laughing.

“It grabbed me, made me laugh, even made me have a few tears in my eyes,” she said. “It was a terrific evening — more than entertainment.”

Ellsworth said the production was a powerful performance of Ensler’s classic play.

“Amazing doesn’t fully encompass it. It was really moving for me,” she said. “All of these women donating their time and their energy to be the voice of the monologues was really very powerful. They were so dedicated to embodying the voice of the women in the monologues that you really felt like you were hearing it firsthand.”

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