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They're Dialogues Now 

by Cynthia Taggart & r & & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & N & lt;/span & o run-of-the-mill Vagina Monologues suits Coeur d'Alene. The script's graphic sexual language doesn't concern Shirley Thagard, who introduced Coeur d'Alene to the edge-pushing play three years ago. Neither does the violence to women that the play thrusts in viewers' faces in an intensely personal manner.


Thagard wants The Vagina Monologues personalized for her home town, and New York playwright Eve Ensler has given her permission.


"It's better personalized," says Tom Cronin, the recently retired police chief of the Coeur d'Alene Tribe. Cronin, also a retired police chief for the city of Coeur d'Alene, wrote a monologue he'll read at two VM performances in Coeur d'Alene this weekend.


"The production is enhanced when it has a male's perspective," Cronin says.


The Vagina Monologues are personal anecdotes of women's funny, painful and shocking encounters with sex. Ensler wrote the play to expose violence against women. She allows communities to produce the play to raise money to stop the violence.


The play's content moved Thagard when she first saw it in Hawaii. She wanted to share its message at home. The Coeur d'Alene Women's Center, a nonprofit organization that helps abused women, was the perfect beneficiary.


The local chapter of Soroptimists International, a volunteer group of business and professional women, sponsors a counseling center for children in the Women's Center. Counselors at the center teach acceptable behavior to children raised among domestic abuse.


Thagard, a Soroptimist, helps her club raise $20,000 each year to support the Children's Counseling Center. She convinced Soroptimists that The Vagina Monologues could raise that money. In 2003, the play raised every cent needed and brought Coeur d'Alene national recognition for its outpouring of support. In 2004, Thagard received permission to add four monologues by men, including one written and performed by Kootenai County Sheriff Rocky Watson.


Watson, on stage in his brown sheriff's uniform, told the audience how domestic violence calls raise his fears for responding deputies. He spoke about his consternation when a woman begged him to release the husband who had beaten her.


Audience reaction to Watson's monologue impressed Cronin. He was a 31-year veteran of the Chicago Police Department when he arrived in Coeur d'Alene in 2000. He'd helped Chicago police develop a domestic violence response program and training course for officers that spread to police departments nationwide. It's now in place through Kootenai and Shoshone counties and with the Coeur d'Alene Tribe.


Cronin didn't hesitate when Thagard asked him to write a monologue for this year's production. He's on the Women's Center board of directors. The children's center is one of his priorities.


"People talk about children learning violence from TV and movies. They learn it by watching Mom and Dad being physically violent, then they do what they learn," he says. "We need to get kids into counseling, teach what's normal to break that cycle."


His monologue message ("Listening to the Expert") is personal yet universal. "Each of us has built-in intuition," he says. "Hairs stand up on the backs of our heads. We get goose bumps. We know something isn't right. We all get messages and we ignore the best expert -- ourselves."


Thagard wrote a new monologue that shares a child's perspective of household violence. She based it on experiences children have shared at the Children's Center. "I'm hoping it'll reinforce women's decision to leave their abusers," she says. "Domestic violence is a learned behavior. Take children out of the environment and give them an opportunity to grow up without abusers."


Most children in the counseling center arrive at the Women's Center with mothers seeking shelter from abusers. On rare occasions, fathers escaping abusive women bring children for counseling. Counselors teach mothers and children to talk together about domestic violence.


"The big thing about domestic violence is that people involved haven't learned to deal with emotions," says Linda Kincaid, Women's Center director. "Kids won't talk to mom about it because every time they try, she cries. It's all about developing coping skills."


Last year, the children's center worked with 547 women and children. Counseling is free. The center costs $25,000 a year to operate.


The benefit production of The Vagina Monologues (Feb. 3-4 at North Idaho College's Schuler Auditorium) will honor single working mothers, many of whom have left abusive relationships. Nike Imoru, former artistic director of Spokane Interplayers Ensemble, will perform Ensler's monologues with radio personality Molly Allen and University of Idaho theater instructor Kelly Quinnett. Performers donate their time.





The Vagina Monologues will be performed on Friday-Saturday, Feb. 3-4, at 7 pm at NIC's Schuler Auditorium (inside Boswell Hall), 1000 W. Garden Ave., Coeur d'Alene Tickets: $25; $10, students and single working mothers. Call (208) 769-7780 or (800) 423-2849.

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