BWW Interview: WEST SIDE STORY's Belinda Allyn Takes on THE VAGINA MONOLOGUES for Worthy Cause
Belinda Allyn (Broadway's ALLEGIANCE) will be participating in a special production of Eve Ensler's THE VAGINA MONOLOGUES, which will be performed at several women's and men's prisons across New York as part of V-Day's 2016 global One Bill Rising Campaign to end violence against women and girls. The tour will include stops at Taconic Correctional Facility, The Fortune Society, and Queensboro Correctional Facility, as well as a public benefit performance at New York City's Cherry Lane Theatre. V-Day Taconic will feature a cast of actors, activists, and formerly incarcerated women. Allyn will perform alongside Lin Tucci (Orange Is the New Black), Ali Stroker (Glee, Broadway's Spring Awakening), Tanya Wright (Orange Is the New Black), formerly incarcerated women, and Dr. Vanda Seward, the former Director of Statewide Reentry for the New York State Department of Corrections. Over the past 16 years, V-Day activists from more than 140 countries have worked tirelessly on a grassroots level to demand an end to all forms of gender-based violence. The intention of the tour is to use art to both raise awareness about the strong connection between gender-based violence and incarceration, and facilitate healing amongst the women and men in our audience. Today, Belinda Allyn speaks exclusively with BWW about her participation in this important project and shares exclusive photos from THE VAGINA MONOLOGUES rehearsals.
Why did you decide to participate in the V-day project?I was approached by a friend regarding the project, and since I had free time I thought it would be a cool opportunity. I've never done a play, and the fact that there is a major outreach element really appealed to me.So then this is your first time performing THE VAGINA MONOLOGUES? Yes! I had never even read it or seen it before I joined the project.In what ways do you think the show will resonate with the women and men in the prisons where you will be performing. I think it is impossible not to be moved by the play in some way. There are moments of hilarity as well as sadness and even horror. Our April 20th Cherry Lane performance is benefitting two organizations, STEPS to End Family Violence and Reentry Rocks.
The statistics of incarcerated women being victims of family violence are staggering. I am sure that some of the monologues will speak to our incarcerated audience's personal experiences as victims, and perhaps even as aggressors.The setting for this performance will be quite different from performing on stage. What are you anticipating the experience will be like and how are you preparing for that? I honestly don't know what to expect. I am a little nervous, but also excited to share something so powerful with a community that is often overlooked. I don't know what the response will be, but I do believe that the mission behind the play is important and that [producers] Liz [Mackintosh] and Elyse [Sholk] have the right idea in bringing the play to this community.Is there a particular monologue from the play that resonates most with you? I'm very excited to be performing the monologue "My Vagina Was My Village". It was written in honor of the women of Bosnia and Kosovo during the war in Yugoslavia. As [director] Ira [Kip] and I were exploring the piece, we found a very powerful connection to the piece because of what is going on with Syria right now. It is profoundly relevant, and I feel like we have become numb to the horrors of war since Americans are, most of the time, very far removed from it. I think it's a very important piece, and I am honored to perform it. What has it been like working with a cast of actors, activists, and formerly incarcerated women? It has been nothing short of incredible. The women in the room range in age and background, and as Elyse and Liz mentioned the first day of rehearsals, it is so important for us to come together with people who are different than us. Everyone treats the piece with reverence and respect, and everyone is open to what each woman brings. It is truly unique and inspirational.You recently appeared in Broadway's ALLEGIANCE which told a different kind of story of mistreatment and abuse. Did that experience have an influence on your desire to participate in the V-day project? I never consciously thought of it influencing my desire to participate in the project, but performing in Allegiance opened my eyes to the oppression of different parts of society. It also taught me how important art and theatre are in communicating an untold story, and I believe it will hold true in our production of The Vagina Monologues. On a lighter note, it was recently announced that you will be starring in Paper Mill's upcoming production of WEST SIDE STORY. What are you most looking forward to on that experience?
Everything! I am so excited. I love the show and the role so much, and I have always wanted to work at Paper Mill! I am just looking forward to soaking in the entire experience.
Please visit Cherry Lane Theatre to learn more about V-Day Taconic and purchase tickets to the benefit performance on Wednesday, April 20th. Enter code VLOVE for $15 off.
About BELINDA ALLYN: Belinda Allyn recently made her Broadway debut in ALLEGIANCE. Other theater credits include Radio City Christmas Spectacular (NYC), West Side Story (Maria), Disney Cruise Line (Pocahontas, Jasmine, Nala).
Allyn received a Bachelor of Music in Music Theatre from OCU.
Rehearsal photo credit: Aimee Lalonde
West Side Story photo credit: Benjamin Hager