When I first came to college, I had a set of expectations that I think I gathered from some combination of ’80s college movies, the show “Community” and a set of amusing anecdotes from my grandmother. Largely, I’ve been disappointed.
I haven’t gotten into anything that could be reasonably described as shenanigans, my study groups never form into a dysfunctional yet loving family, and I have never been accused of making too much noise while doing the Charleston in the early morning. Last Friday night, though, as I sat listening to a performance entitled “My Angry Vagina,” I realized that I could finally one-up my grandma’s stories.
That was only one of the scenes in the recent production of “The Vagina Monologues.” This year’s production at TU was initiated by Hayley Higgs and Abby Meaders, students in Professor Joanne Davis’ psychology of trauma class, who decided to organize it as a semester project after hearing about “The Vagina Monologues” in class.
Since “Monologues” is traditionally performed in February, they had three weeks from that decision to gather actresses, reserve a space and rehearse the performance.
The play, originally written by Eve Ensler for a 1996 production, is now performed almost exclusively in February, as part of the V-Day movement, which is focused on preventing violence against women and supporting survivors.
The proceeds from the TU production, which had a $5 suggested donation, went to DVIS/Call Rape, a Tulsa-based nonprofit that provides intervention and prevention services to those affected by domestic or sexual violence.
The play, organized into discrete pieces, varied wildly in tone. It started with “Hair,” in which Grace Doyle portrayed a woman angry about her ex-husband’s insistence that she shave her pubic hair.
There was “The Woman Who Loved to Make Vaginas Happy,” where Taylor Keefe had the audience in hysterics (pun intended) with her imitations of the moans of different kinds of women, from lawyers to college students, and “Because He Liked To Look At It,” where Preslie Watkins played a woman who was embarrassed of her vagina until a sexual encounter with a man named Bob, who spent hours staring at it.
On the other hand, there was also the uncomfortably graphic “My Vagina Was My Village”, in which Tendai Dandajena played a Bosnian woman who discussed her vagina before and after her experiences of systematic war rape. The thing that pulled all of the performances together was that they all elicited some emotional reaction, sometimes changing tone in the middle of a piece.
The Vagina Monologues is a polarizing play, and I can understand why. It certainly doesn’t pull any punches, and at one point a performer told the audience to chant a word that I’m reasonably sure I’m not allowed to reprint here.
Lacking the requisite equipment, as it were, I can’t really judge how accurate the play was, vis-à-vis vaginas. It was, however, one of the most entertaining plays I’ve ever seen, and it had me entranced even while it was making me uncomfortable.
One of the organizers, at a short panel after the play, said that, when spreading the word about the play, she saw a woman cringe at the word “vagina.” “No,” she said, looking around. “Don’t use that word!”
The Vagina Monologues, from the vagina-themed cookies offered at the entrance, to the listing of euphemisms for “vagina” at the beginning of the play, deals with a taboo subject that really can’t be a taboo for functioning adults in an egalitarian society. That, as much as anything, is a good reason to see it.