Lawrence production of ‘The Vagina Monologues’ inspired after Roe was overturned

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When Jordan Bickford learned about the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, she felt consumed with sadness, rage and confusion.  

“I felt numb and stripped … and absolutely gutted and so sad,” Bickford says. 

She felt she needed to do something. 

“I called in every favor I’ve ever had to get people to agree to talk about vaginas on a stage,” she jokes. “It’s so hard to feel helpless, when you feel like your rights are being attacked, and the rights of others are being attacked. You have to do something with all of this fear and rage.” 

Bickford’s devastation from the ruling inspired her and her friends to organize a production of “The Vagina Monologues” to raise money for the Kansas Abortion Fund. 

Doors open at 6 p.m. and the show starts at 7 p.m. Wednesday, July 27 at Liberty Hall. Tickets are $10 with the option to contribute more, and they’re available at this link

Written by Eve Ensler, the “Vagina Monologues” debuted in New York in 1996. Ensler interviewed some 200 women on a range of topics, such as sexuality, assault, rape, body image, periods, prostitution and feminine hygiene. She then edited excerpts and created composites to form 26 monologues to be delivered by women of varying ages, races and sexualities. 

“Vagina Monologues” eventually spawned V-Day, an anti-violence organization dedicated to “end(ing) violence against all women cisgender, transgender, and those who hold fluid identities that are subject to gender-based violence,” according to its website

Melissa Clissold

The play has some darker themes, and director Melissa Clissold says parents will need to thoughtfully consider whether to bring their children. Clissold’s own daughter, who is now 25, performed her first vagina monologue at age 13. 

Clissold has directed or performed in the production 11 times. The play flows from lighthearted moments to emotionally heavier ones, she says. 

“As I’ve directed the show over the years, I’ve had people tell me what a healing process it is,” Clissold says.

“I also think it’s important to know these are some pretty heavy topics. We talk about rape. I love hearing women’s stories, but it can weigh heavy on you because they’re not all happy stories.”

All of the money from “The Vagina Monologues” will go to the Kansas Abortion Fund. 

More about the Kansas Abortion Fund

A small band of seven volunteers run the nonprofit, which connects Kansans with one of the four abortion clinics in the state. Since its formation in 1996, the Kansas Abortion Fund has helped more than 6,000 Kansans obtain abortions, said Sandy Brown, president of the organization. So far this year, it’s helped nearly 275 people, ages 15 to 45, access an abortion. 

Sandy Brown

“We are activists,” Brown says. “We have been dedicated to reproductive justice, many of us, for years. At this point, the Abortion Fund has funded 10% of all reported abortions in Kansas.” 

If Kansans vote “yes” to the amendment on the Aug. 2 ballot, it would give state legislators the opportunity to restrict or ban abortion completely. That means expenses would swell with additional costs of transportation and lodging. 

Brown is poised for whatever voters decide, however. 

“If abortion is banned in Kansas, (Kansans) will have to travel out of state,” Brown says. “No matter what happens we will do what we’ve always done. We are going to find financial support for Kansans seeking abortions even if they have to travel to Colorado or New Mexico or Illinois.” 

In the coming weeks, the Kansas Abortion Fund will work with the Midwest Access Coalition, a nonprofit that funds incidental costs such as transportation, food, child care and lodging. Brown is excited about the partnership because it will mitigate the financial burden falling on any Kansan who may be forced to travel out of state for an abortion. The multiple fundraisers that have cropped up across Topeka, Kansas City and Lawrence will also assuage that burden. Brown says the overturning of Roe v. Wade has triggered activists like Bickford into action. 

Bickford hopes the Lawrence community will come together to see “The Vagina Monologues” — and support the cause. 

“Reproductive justice is so important because we can’t be human beings unless we have control over our own bodies,” Bickford says.

“It’s a great piece and it felt right for this moment when people are really angry and scared.”

Cast your ballot in the Aug. 2 election

You can quickly request an advance ballot to be mailed to you at The last day to request a mail ballot is July 26.

To see what’s on the ballot, visit this link. For information about voting early in person, visit this link. Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Election Day, Tuesday, Aug. 2.

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Chansi Long (she/her) reported for The Lawrence Times from July 2022 through August 2023. Read more of her work for the Times here.

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