"Hooker Monologues" Takes Stage in Vancouver

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Author: 
North America and Caribbean Regional Correspondent

A new theatre production called "The Hooker Monologues" premiered in Vancouver on Thursday the 10th of March. The play brings together ten current and former sex workers to perform stories based on their experiences in the industry. It is directed by Canadian theatre director Mindy Parfitt.

Named after Eve Ensler’s "The Vagina Monologues", " The Hooker Monologues" is the creation of Raven Bowen. Bowen is the former executive director of NSWP member PACE Society. PACE Society works primarily with outdoor sex workers in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. Bowen is currently a PhD student at Durham University, where she recently released a study on “whore stigma.”

Anti-sex work stigma is a theme in the show, which aims to dispel myths about sex workers and the sex industry.

“It’s not the sex worker in the mini-skirt under the streetlight leaning into a car,” Bowen told The Province. “That’s the image that we see all the time but that is not reflective.”

"The Hooker Monologues" also hope to resist Canada’s recent anti-sex work laws, the Protecting Communities and Exploited Persons Act. Bowen explained to the CBC, “We'll be able to include audiences in the lives of sex workers in a way we haven't been able to do in the past, because I don't think a Canada that understands the impact of criminalisation would have supported the Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act.”

The play was in production for over a year leading up to its premiere. Cast and crew met once a month to write and rehearse their pieces.

In addition to current and former sex workers, the cast also includes allies such as Maggie de Vries. De Vries is the sister of a sex worker who was murdered by serial killer Robert Pickton. Her performance draws on her sister’s journal entires and her own experiences searching for her.

“They get to enter into [my sister]’s private thoughts that she wrote for herself. They get to see her hopes and dreams and longings. That’s something they might not imagine,” De Vries told The Province.

The cast features a diverse range of sex workers’ experiences, including escorts, a dominatrix, and dancers.

Cast member Carmen Shakti told CBC’s The National, “I hope that by hearing stories by actual sex workers, people will have a reference point. We have communities and families and hopes and dreams. And we’re complex people.”

Trans dominatrix and body builder Velvet Steele reads a monologue about getting ready for a client called Forever Red. The monologue touches on the “strength and power” of her lipstick, and also on the ways it is marked by stigma against sex workers.

The play held a public reading in November 2015 at the Unitarian Church of Vancouver. It’s first full production was mounted at the Fire Hall Arts Centre from the 9th to 13th of March.

The play was created in partnership with 20 organisations, including NSWP member PACE Society, SWAN Vancouver, and PEERS.

A short documentary on the making of "The Hooker Monologues" premiered on CBC’s The National in December 2015, and can be viewed here. More information on the production of "The Hooker Monologues" can be found on their website.