FARMINGTON — Five years ago Empanadas put on their first ever production of "The Vagina Monologues" at the Scottish Fiddle Society in Aztec.

Annette Mendoza -- a member of Empanadas, a local group dedicated to raising awareness about domestic violence -- said the performance has grown since then.

While the group took a break from the Vagina Monologues last year, it is currently holding auditions for this year's performance.

Anyone interested in performing in the production should attend the auditions at 6 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Performers will be asked to do cold readings and scripts will be provided.

Last year, Empanadas decided not to put on the Vagina Monologues in order to focus its efforts on "One Billion Rising" -- a global demonstration last February in which one billion people in 207 countries danced to demand an end to violence against women and girls.

While Empanadas originally consisted of only women, the group expanded to include men when it put on a performance of "A Memory, a Monologue, a Rant and a Prayer" at Piedra Vista High School in 2012, which took the place of that year's production of "The Vagina Monologues."

"It was about empowering women," Mendoza said.

"The Vagina Monologues" was written by Eve Ensler in 1996. It was first performed in the basement of the Cornelia Street Cafe in Greenwich Village in New York.

Since then, it has been translated into 48 languages and performed in more than 140 countries.

The play has sparked a social justice movement throughout the world.

It is generally performed around Valentine's Day, which, according to Mendoza, has had high rates of domestic violence incidents in the United States.

The period of time the play is generally performed is known as V-Day and continues through April 30.

Haleigh Bassing is directing the play in Farmington. She previously directed "The Vagina Monologues" with the Aggies for Feminism, a group at New Mexico State University in Las Cruces.

"It's a (well) written play and the best part of it is the foundation of the support," Bassing said. She said the foundation of the support is the following Ensler gained after writing the play.

She said Ensler went around interviewing women of all ages about their vaginas before she wrote the play. Some of the stories can be very personal, such as the story of a woman who had been raped by her entire village.

Other stories have a lighter tone.

Bassing said some people have a hard time taking the play seriously because of its title.

"I want people to come and be open minded," she said.

This weekend's auditions are the second round. Bassing said some people were unable to attend the first round because of holiday commitments. She is also planning on having a set of auditions for San Juan College theater students later this month.

"The Vagina Monologues" will open on the first weekend of April at the Farmington Civic Center.

Mendoza said she hopes the play will create awareness of violence within San Juan County.

According to Eleana Butler of Northwest New Mexico Sexual Assault Services, the county has the third highest rate of sexual assaults in the state and New Mexico is ranked ninth in the number of sexual violence cases in the country.

The proceeds earned by "The Vagina Monologues" will be donated to the Northwest New Mexico Sexual Assault Services and New Beginnings Women's Shelter.

Butler said, in all, the Northwest New Mexico Sexual Assault Services has received about $2,000 from Empanadas since the group started putting on the Vagina Monologues.

"Every little bit helps," Butler said.

Butler herself has attended the "The Vagina Monologue" performances. She said the performances can be serious or humorous.

"I've laughed and then been brought to tears in the same night," Butler said.

Mendoza said the first time they did the Vagina Monologues the Empanadas were able to buy 11 new beds for New Beginnings. The group has also donated to projects that included rebuilding after the Haiti earthquake and the Spotlight Campaign.

"We've made a difference and that's a very gratifying thing," Mendoza said.


What: Vagina Monologues auditions

When: 6 p.m. Friday and Saturday

Where: Farmington Civic Center

More info: Call Haleigh Bassing, 505-320-1230 or Annette Mendoza, 505-860-7942

Hannah Grover covers news, arts and religion for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652 and Follow her @hmgrover on Twitter.