Are you looking to increase your social awareness? Do you vacillate between giving to one of the numerous worldwide children’s aids and something a little closer to home? Have you wondered how you can help others while living on a budget? Try taking in a play. Playwright and activist Eve Ensler’s “The Vagina Monologues” hits the stage at E.J. Thomas Hall for a single performance on February 13, and it’s a reasonable $10 a ticket. All monologues will be performed by University of Akron students. For more than 15 years the sometimes controversial, always in-your face-production that celebrates womanhood has appeared on stages between February and April. It was back in 1996 that “The Vagina Monologues” began its five-year run off Broadway. Since then, more than 700 colleges have put on productions of “The Vagina Monologues”, and the play has had sold-out runs in New York’s Westside Theater and London’s West End. Initially, the play, a re-telling of true stories told to Ensler, had as its objective a celebration of the female body. Over the years, the purpose of the piece has evolved into a movement to stop violence against women and girls. Productions are used as catalysts to raise funds for female victims of abuse, with money usually donated to a local charity or agency. Funds raised during the February 13 show will benefit the Rape Crisis Centers of Summit and Medina counties as well as the V-Day program (vday.org). Ensler established the nonprofit V-Day in 1998 to raise awareness of injustices done to women and girls worldwide, including the United States, Africa, the Middle East and Asia. This movement continues to grow and can be found in over 130 countries worldwide. According to vday.org, “The truth is shocking. According to the United Nations, one of every three women on the planet will be physically or sexually abused in her lifetime. Although sources of violence may seem diverse, women’s responses sound tragically similar. V-Day was born of the belief that until these themes are addressed, these violations named and taken up by whole communities as an unacceptable desecration of human dignity, the violence will continue.” Every year the V-Day organization focuses on a specific female demographic, beginning 10 years ago with the women of Afghanistan. In 2011 it is the women and girls of Haiti. Ten percent of the proceeds raised from all V-Day events this year will benefit the women and girls of Haiti in 2011’s Spotlight Campaign. Though it’s the preferred script on college campuses, “The Vagina Monologues” isn’t the only play used to spread the word about V-Day. “A Memory, a Monologue, a Rant and a Prayer”, a series of essays edited by Ensler and written by luminaries such as Dave Eggers, Alice Waler and Jane Fonda, has gained momentum over the past few years. The most recent play, “Any One of Us: Words from Prison”, reveals the connection between women in prison and the history that brought them there. (Ensler has taught writing workshops in correctional facilities and even contributed to a PBS documentary about them.) Although the purpose behind “The Vagina Monologues” is admirable, the production has met many critics. Many view the play as vulgar, limited in scope with a derogatory view of men, and some Catholic universities have banned or pulled productions. Feminists and other activists, too, have criticized the play’s approach. At the same time, many celebrities have lent their names and faces to V-Day events. During 2008’s ten-year V-Day celebration at the Superdome, more than 20 noted females — including Oprah Winfrey, Kerry Washington, Salma Hayek and Rosario Dawson — performed monologues free of charge. Not bad. Whether you want a cheap evening out or are looking to supercharge your female voice, the University of Akron’s production of “The Vagina Monologues” will satisfy. Plus, it’ll help out local victims of abuse. Ladies and gentlemen, step it up and step out!