Sweet 16 demands celebration, whether it's a person, a place or an annual event reaching that milestone.
V-Day Bakersfield is returning this weekend for its 16th year with a new and larger venue at the Fox Theater, a party, a documentary and a multilingual performance of "The Vagina Monologues."
"It's good to have new material because people say 'I've already seen it,'" said Julie JordanScott, one of the play's directors. "Not like this, they haven't."
The play will include 17 monologues, most from "The Vagina Monologues" playwright Eve Ensler but also a few original pieces written by community members. Around 40 performers, of all ages, sizes, ethnicities and orientations, will take the stage Saturday, including a few men.
Directing the play along with JordanScott this year are Guinevere PH Dethlefson, Maria Mercado and Heather McCarthy, each of them taking on between three and six monologues.
V-Day is "a worldwide movement to end violence against women and girls," Dethlefson said. "But it's all local. Each community does its own."
Proceeds from V-Day go to local organizations wherever the event is held, in Bakersfield's case to the Alliance Against Family Violence and Sexual Assault and Kern Coalition Against Human Trafficking.
This is the first year V-Day has been held at the Fox Theater, a much bigger venue than when the event has previously been hosted by local theaters like The Empty Space or Bakersfield Community Theatre.
"We've done it all over Bakersfield," Dethlefson said. "This year, it's (our) 16th year and I want it to be a party. If it's at a smaller space, people might forget about it, but seeing it on the marquee at the Fox, it's on your radar."
Also new this year is the play's emphasis on universality and multiple languages. The monologues will be performed in English, Spanish, Punjabi, Hindi and Tagolog, the top five languages spoken in Bakersfield. Sometimes a monologue will be spoken in just one, while others might include more than one. Supertitles displayed on the theater's large screen will provide translation.
Guests "can follow along in whatever language they're comfortable with, while still experiencing the live performance," Dethlefson said. "Getting to actually hear the words presented really adds to it."
The words in the monologue are universal, the directors agreed, and having multiple languages was a way to open the play up to more of the community.
"It will be more accessible to anybody that is not totally fluent in English to have a voice and feel welcome," Mercado said.
One monologue that will be performed in Spanish is "The Flood." In it, the translation is not exact, prioritizing the feeling and flow of the words over a word-for-word match. While the speaker in the original dreams of Burt Reynolds, the Spanish-language speaker dreams about Pedro Infante, a Mexican actor, singer and heartthrob.
"The translation in Spanish is absolutely beautiful," Mercado said. "It's just touching and empowering. It makes me tear up. For someone speaking Spanish, they're going to feel at home."
McCarthy said one of her favorite monologues being performed is "Because He Liked to Look at It," which is about a woman moving past the shame she has for her own body because a man appreciated it and helped her see the beauty in it. In McCarthy's interpretation of the monologue this weekend, two women with different body types will tell the same story.
"This one experience with an ordinary man changed her life," McCarthy said of the speaker.
Each year, V-Day has a "Spotlight Campaign" and monologues on that topic, with 10 percent of the event's proceeds going toward that specific cause. This year's is incarcerated women. Inspired by her visits with detainees at the Mesa Verde ICE Processing Facility, JordanScott wrote a monologue about women detained after seeking asylum in the United States and what happens after they are freed.
"I'm involved with a group that visits and have become friends with detainees, and it's been one of the most transformative experiences," JordanScott said. "(The issue) is international and hyper-local. It's a very important story for the community to know."
Though "The Vagina Monologues" is, naturally, about celebrating women and telling their stories, the V-Day production will also include Ensler's "Man Prayer" and an original piece JordanScott wrote in collaboration with a group of local men.
Before the play starts at 8 p.m., there will be a screening of the documentary "City of Joy" at 4 p.m. in the gallery space next to the Fox, then a Sweet 16 party at 5:30 p.m. in the same location. The documentary follows a Congolese doctor, human rights activist and Ensler as they create a refuge for women who have survived violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
With many more seats than any previous venue, the directors said they are hoping to see between 400 to 800 people on Saturday. After the play, there will be a discussion where people can talk about the monologues and their own experience. The directors said they regularly hear from people who expected the event to be "man-bashing" or "liberal propaganda."
"There are minds and hearts that get changed every year we do it," Mercado said. "Multiply that by 16 years. We can't say we're winning but we're always making progress."