The “hoohaa” monologues

Florida playhouse scrubs "vagina" from its marquee after a passerby complains.

Topics: Broadsheet, Theater, Love and Sex,

“Hoohaa”? Sounds like a chocolate soda. Or something you hoot after jumping off a tire swing. Or one sorry-assed country band. It doesn’t sound like the life-giving pleasure palace of the female anatomy. But then again, I haven’t been to Atlantic Beach, Fla., lately, so I may not be up on how the ladies there are referring to their naughty bits. Atlantic Beach recently made news when a local marquee for “The Vagina Monologues” was changed to “The Hoohaa Monologues,” after a woman driving by with her 12-year-old niece complained.

According to a local television spot picked up by CNN, the Atlantic Theatre changed the sign for the ubiquitous Eve Ensler play after the woman called and threatened to raise hell. Not surprisingly, this decision has unleashed a gleeful blizzard of scorn in the blogosphere (click here and here for some prime examples). Who is this woman too embarrassed to tell a 12-year-old girl what vaginas are? How could this poor girl have been deprived of such basic anatomical information? What kind of self-respecting theater managers would cave to censorship of an Obie Award-winning play on the basis of a single phone call from a stranger stuck in the Victorian era?

I’ve long thought that proclamatory plays about female body parts should be relegated to the herstory archives, but this cuntroversy gave me pause. The great irony of this tempest in a tinker bell is that it proves Ensler’s point: that “VAGINA” in capital letters — at least in Atlantic Beach — still packs some transgressive poochika power. But does the “Vagina” sanitizing really signal that the country is going to hell in a fire-and-brimstone handbasket? The Louisville, Ky., Courier-Journal’s poll suggests that saner minds will prevail. When I checked it out, only 8.5 percent out of the 615 readers polled suggested any aversion to the publicly displayed word. (I would have liked the percentage to be zero, but to each her own.)

Of course, there’s always the possibility that the theater — while placating its drive-by critics — is lubricating the publicity machine with an old-fashioned brouhaha. The Atlantic Theatre Web site has posted an earnest apology to the public: “It is not the intention of the Atlantic Theatres to offend anybody by hosting this event and we formally apologize to anyone that was upset when we advertised this on our marquee during the first week of February. We have since made changes to reflect the sensitive nature of this show’s title.

“If the new title on the marquee is still appalling, please call with suggestions.”

I can’t imagine what the theater’s in box will look like tomorrow. If you’re feeling creative, the theater’s number is 904-249-PLAY. Just about any word not describing a “peepee” wedged between “The” and “Monologues” will probably send the message. And in case you need prompting, here’s a list that claims to be the most comprehensive collection of vaginal synonyms — though “hoohaa” is conspicuously absent. Warning to all women and their nieces: Most entries are pretty misogynistic, though the list ends on a nice note with “mystical fold.”

Carol Lloyd is currently at work on a book about the gentrification wars in San Francisco's Mission District.

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