The classic feminist show is a beloved TU tradition, and this year was no exception.
Students and faculty directed and acted in a production of “The Vagina Monologues” on Friday and Saturday, Feb. 15–16 in Tyrrell Hall. Director Jessica LaPlant greeted the audience by telling them to put their phones on silent or vibrate — with a wink. These performances were organized by TU’s Student Alliance for Violence Prevention (SAVE) and in conjunction with the Women’s and Gender Studies Department. Each performer delivered powerful interpretations of the original text, bringing humor and depth in their dedication to the personas they assumed.
Showing “The Vagina Monologues” has been an annual tradition at TU for several years, using theatre to breach discussions of female sexuality, rape culture and everything in between. SAVE also raised money by selling multi-colored vagina cookies and chocolate bars, offering free condoms and pictures with a large cardboard vagina with a “glitoris” outlined in gold sparkles.
“The Vagina Monologues” is an episodic play written by Eve Ensler in 1994. Ensler first produced this groundbreaking play in New York, where it ran Off-Broadway for five years but has since been performed in over 140 countries. The play was based on 200 interviews Ensler conducted and is performed as a series of monologues by women of diverse races and ages. These monologues explore a myriad of issues facing women today, using both comedic and intimate deliveries to create a powerful experience for viewers.
Several monologues focused on promoting self-love and appreciation of the vagina. In “Hair,” Kirsten Robertson argued that “you cannot love a vagina if you don’t love hair” through a story about a husband’s infidelity because his wife wouldn’t shave. “The Vagina Workshop” monologue, performed by Tori Burris, recounts a woman learning to love her vagina and become one with herself by “be[ing] my clitoris.”
Some episodes of the play took on a more serious tone. Five performers read “They Beat the Girl out of My Boy — Or So They Tried,” narrating the lives of transgender women and the fight to be able to externally show the woman inside of them. “Not So Happy Fact,” performed by Farah Giovannelli, taught the audience how prevalent female genital mutilation is, with about three million young girls falling under the “knife, or razor blade, or glass shard” each year. “My Vagina was my Village,” performed by Layla Mortada, is told from the point of view of a Bosnian woman who was raped during the Bosnian War. She relates her individual rape to the destruction of her hometown, telling the audience, “My vagina a live wet water village. They invaded it. Butchered it and burned it down. I do not touch now.”
Other monologues were more humorous, performed with complete dedication from the speakers. “My Angry Vagina,” performed by Lauren Beatty, started with the unforgettable line, “My vagina’s furious and it needs to talk,” proceeding to complain about uncomfortable tampons and douche sprays that try to change the smell when it “smells good already.” Another, “The Woman who Loved to Make Vaginas Happy,” was performed by Kelsey Hancock and shared the perspective of a female dominatrix for women. She spoke about loving to moan and make women moan, ending in a list of different kinds of moans and featuring their corresponding sounds by LaPlant.
On Valentine’s Day in 1998, Ensler organized the first V-Day. Ensler allows performing groups across the world to produce their own showings of “The Vagina Monologues” and contribute profits to organizations that work to prevent violence against women. Tickets for “The Vagina Monologues” production at TU were $5, and proceeds were donated to Domestic Violence Intervention Services and V-Day’s sponsored charity. According to the V-Day website, this movement has raised over $100 million since its conception.
Performances of “The Vagina Monologues” not only contribute to V-Day’s mission of raising money for violence prevention but also raises awareness about several problems. By directly addressing issues like genital mutilation and rape, Ensler forces viewers to confront the way that these experiences and stigmas shape women’s lives. She challenges us to be better individuals in order to imagine a future in which, according to the V-Day website, “Women and girls will be free to thrive rather than merely survive.”
In TU’s adaptation, producers included an extra monologue: a reading of a student’s story about sexual assault on campus that was published in The Collegian in 2016. The anonymous author recounted her own sexual assault, hoping to confront the issue on our own campus. The performers ended the event by asking sexual assault survivors and anyone who knows someone who survived sexual assault to raise their hands. With this, LaPlant encouraged everyone to “stand together in unity” to support survivors of sexual assault.