Aunt Flo. The Curse. Monthlies. Period. Menstruation is a natural part of womanhood, so why don’t women just call it what it is? That’s exactly what Jacie Knight wanted to know. “[In high school and college], I really noticed how girls were very undercover about talking about it, almost to the point that they were ashamed of the fact that they had their period,” recalled the founder and artistic director of the Youth Performance Company (YPC) in Minneapolis. “To me, it’s a natural function of your body, [like] runny noses.”
Surprised by the embarrassment she saw, Knight resolved to bring the subject out into the open. The result is a frank and funny theatrical production that is now making the transition from stage to DVD.
“Goddess Menses and the Menstrual Show” sprang from YPC’s “PG-13 Initiative” program, which was established in 2002 to allow its young artists to create original works addressing issues most relevant to them. Each of the 14 girls from diverse ethnic, economic and religious backgrounds in the inaugural group wrote a monologue of her own experience and they became comedy sketches and musical numbers for the show.
Knight saw a perfect opportunity to create not only an all-female show “about the wacky, crazy, weird things that occur when you get your period,” but also one that provides young girls with straightforward facts. The original production played just four performances in YPC’s “black box” theater, a stripped-down venue used to try out new works. The audiences were small but their response to “Goddess” was huge. “People went crazy! I was stunned that they were reacting that way because people [had been] negative about [the topic],” Knight recalled. “It was really evident that we had hit this nerve.”
More performances followed, including the 2004 Fringe Festival where it was one of the best-reviewed shows. Soon, educators and healthcare providers who had seen “Goddess” were clamoring for Knight to bring the production to conferences and schools The decision was made to make it into a DVD.
The SNL-esque format of the show reflects Knight’s belief that humor is a great way to convey important facts to teenagers, especially if the message is somewhat embarrassing. “It’s all very informative, but [sketch comedy] has an incredible appeal to teens,” she explained. “[It’s] entertaining enough that they’d actually stay and watch.” Although these shows combine entertainment with information, “we are not ‘sexperts,'” Knight stressed. “We can be a great tool for . . . the experts [but] our role is to be a messenger of a story.” She hired a consulting firm to create an educational guide for the DVD to encourage discussion between teens and adults. In the meantime, “Goddess” hopes women of all ages will learn to celebrate this part of womanhood. Period.