On July 18, the Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center will be taken over by boobs.
Well, a performance about boobs, anyway.
The evening will mark the fifth anniversary of The Breast Dialogues, an annual evening of humorous, sober, sexy and uplifting monologues by local women (cisgender and transgender) about these physical endowments that play such a big role in women’s lives from youth to old age. In years past, monologues have focused on topics from the awkwardness of developing breasts to the
The show’s structure is inspired by playwright Eve Ensler’s groundbreaking work, The Vagina Monologues, which got women across the world talking about issues directly related to the part of their anatomy that many still see as dirty.
Jennifer Nuttall, the Utah Pride Center’s Adult Programs Director, said she hopes that The Breast Dialogues (which the center co-sponsors) will do the same thing for women’s breasts that Ensler’s play did for their vaginas. Especially when it comes to the topic of breast cancer, which affects thousands of women in America and which lesbian, bisexual and transgender women are at higher risk of getting. In fact, the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation, which co-sponsors the performance along with the Center, gave the Center the grant in 2004 that made the first Dialogues possible. The grant, said Nuttall, was intended to educate women, most notably lesbians and bisexuals, about their particular risk factors.
“I think [The Breast Dialogues] has been one of the most effective ways to bring awareness about breast cancer to the lesbian, bisexual and transgender community, because it’s a very entertaining and fun way to come and bond with other people around stories about our breasts,” she said. “Everyone has some experience with their breasts and there’s that experience we can relate to.”
Along with the camaraderie this evening of theatre inspires, Nuttall also noted that The Breast Dialogues combines entertainment with important education about breast cancer, mammograms, self-examinations and other things women need to know to detect potential tumors early.
“I think we all have some fear,” she continued. “Everyone knows someone who has gotten breast cancer, and to have that environment [the play encourages] to bring up that fear and then to have some resources, can be helpful. This has been a really effective way to bring that [information] to the community.”
When asked what risk factors lesbian, bisexual and transgender women and men face that their straight and cisgender (non-transgender) do not, Nuttall named not seeking screenings (like mammograms) frequently.
“[Lesbians, bisexual women and transgender women and men] don’t go and seek care as often and there are a lot of reasons for that. Part of that is the fear of discrimination in health care settings.”
To help alleviate this fear, Nuttall said the Center has created a list of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender-affirming health care providers — each of whom are recommended to the Center by at least one individual patient.
“It’s really important to disclose your sexual orientation to your provider, and we try to provide information [to help facilitate] that,” she said. “Gaining that trust is important and helps you to follow through with the steps [they recommend].”
Breast Dialogues veteran Laurie Wood is serving as the facilitator for the show’s 2009 incarnation, helping the participating women write and hone their monologues. One participant, she said is writing about her fears of getting breast cancer after watching her mother go through it.
“Now she’s getting to the age where she’s having to worry [about getting it],” Wood said.
But while _The Breast Dialogues_ has served as a vehicle for breast cancer education and prevention, the show has never been all about the disease, and neither will it be this year.
“There’s one woman who recently went through breast reduction surgery, so her story is about how having very large breasts impacted so many aspects of her life and reflected on how she saw herself,” said Wood. “Then there’s another story of a woman who has equally large breasts and it’s her celebration of those breasts.”
Nor are cisgender women the only ones interested in writing.
“There are a couple of women [who have come to the monologue workshops] who are in the process of transitioning — one from male to female and one from female to male, and that perspective is really interesting. One is looking forward to getting rid of breasts and the other looking forward to getting breasts.”
“A lot of the stories are about — they’re almost every woman’s stories about insecurities that come with our breasts and how much meaning gets invested in them either through our families or siblings or girlfriends or boyfriends. They’re just fraught with meaning,” she added.
Although The Breast Dialogues workshops draw a number of women each year, both Nuttall and Wood said they are concerned they won’t have enough new pieces for a show (the piece typically features 10 monologues). Because of the shortage, they have said that a few “favorites from years past” may re-appear in 2009’s line up.
But no matter what pieces get used, Wood promised an incredible evening of theatre.
“Every single time, the whole becomes so terrific you couldn’t even plan it better, and it’s all sort of random,” she said. Nobody plans a story line through the whole evening but it’s so amazing how it comes together.”
The Breast Dialogues will be held at the Rose Wagner’s Studio Theatre on July 18 at 7:00 p.m. Tickets are a suggested donation of $10 to pay for renting the space. Breast cancer information will be available after the show as will light refreshments, provided by lesbian social and civic group sWerve. Shellie Waters will direct.
For more information about the performance, or to express interest in participating, contact Jennifer Nuttall at (801) 539-8800 x 13 or Jennifer@utahpridecenter.org.