By Mrinal Gokhale
Some monologues were humorous like one “Silver Bullet,” about masturbation, while others brought the room to silence like “Broken Pocketbook,” a story about prostitution. This play, The Pocketbook Diaries, was an interpretation of The PocketBook Monologues.
Director Catina Cole, along with producers Monique Liston and Melissa Marthol raised $1,379.52 in ticket sales and donations from the play, with all proceeds going towards the center’s programming.
Often called “The Vagina Monologues of the south,” PocketBook Monologues by Sharon McGhee details African-American women’s true stories on topics like virginity, bikini wax, rape and molestation.
The play has not been performed in Milwaukee since McGhee passed away a few years ago, Cole said.
Since PocketBook Monologues pertains to elderly African-American women, the producers and director almost completely reworked the existing script and let performers write their own pieces, creating the brand new interpretation, The Pocketbook Diaries.
“Pocketbook Diaries covers topics our community is conditioned not to discuss, like rape and abuse,” said Cole, who also co-directed Vagina Monologues at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (UWM) this year.
“I felt Vagina Monologues was missing a piece, and the term ‘pocketbook’ pays homage to African-American women.” Cole has been involved in theater since childhood at her church and strives to create a theater activism group, focusing on underrepresented talent.
She is pursuing her master’s degree in Educational Psychology at the UW-Milwaukee while working as a 911 dispatcher.
“I am a rape and abuse survivor and I’ve learned the power behind telling your story,” she explained. She made sure to emphasize her beliefs of speaking on trauma with the cast members.
Once rehearsals began two months ago and ran every Sunday, she encouraged all cast members to ‘check in’ to their emotions with one another.
“As a counseling major, I was concerned how the cast members felt,” she said. “We discussed our highs and lows. We vented. We cried.
We discussed ways to better the production.” Jendora Kelley, who performed in Vagina Monologues at UWM this year, was one of about 10 cast members who appeared in both productions.
She wrote her own piece, and also performed “Power of My Pocketbook,” a piece teaching young women not to “give away our pocketbook” to reaffirm self-worth.
“My own piece, ‘The Change in My Pocketbook,’ reaffirmed self value.
It started with me holding change in my hand and ended with me tossing the coins in the air,” Kelley explained.
Kelley said a friend from the Body and Soul Healing Arts Center first approached her to perform in Vagina Monologues, and she learned about Pocketbook Diaries auditions through Cole.
“The stereotypical black woman is seen as aggressive and angry, and this overrides our beauty,” she said.
“These stories reflect on cultural traditions of women of color, proving no woman is alone in her journey and that we all have a story to tell.”
The Body & Soul Healing Arts Center is a community space used for events focused on recovery and services in the areas of nutrition, spirituality, arts and education.
Some services and events offered include farmers markets, yoga classes, craft fairs and cooking classes. The building is located at 3617 N. 48th St. in Milwaukee.