When something has the word ‘vagina” in the title, you know there’s a good chance that it will be memorable. That was the case with Friday’s performance of ‘The Vagina Monologues,” which was certainly unlike any theatrical performance I’d ever seen.
As I entered Hubbell Auditorium for the performance, there were two screens displaying a continuous line of nicknames for ‘down there”: split knish, twat, etc. There were five stools, six microphones and two stand-alone light fixtures. This arrangement was sparse enough to make some audience members giggle nervously and shift in their seats.
The show began with an explanation of how ‘The Vagina Monologues” came to be. Eve Ensler, the creator and author, began the project in 1996 by asking women about their vaginas. The questions included, ‘If your vagina wore clothes, what would it wear?” and, ‘If your vagina could talk, what would it say?” The questions may seem silly, but the play itself had a crucial point: Vaginas are often ignored because women are ashamed of them.
More importantly, we also learned about V-Day, a global movement to end violence against women, founded by Ensler. Before seeing this performance, V-Day was just a cause that I knew the ticket proceeds were going to. Afterward it was clear that it is the driving force of ‘The Vagina Monologues.”
The monologues ranged from hilarious, to momentarily awkward, to heart wrenching and tragic. ‘My Angry Vagina,” performed by seniors Lauren Davis, Lauren Silverstein and Aleeza Wachs, featured the three women explaining exactly why their vaginas were so ‘pissed off.” The reasons varied from tampons to gynecologists to thongs. Despite the touchy subjects, the monologue was very funny mostly because it was so true.
Another comical moment involved senior Alyssa Cowell explaining (and demonstrating) different kinds of moans to the audience, such as the ‘almost moan,” ‘elegant moan,” ‘college student moan” and ‘surprise triple orgasm moan.”
This monologue and ‘My Angry Vagina” both elicited roaring laughter from the audience and were beautifully done. However, although the comedy was enjoyable, it wasn’t where the true power of the evening lay.
The non-comedic monologues were the ones that provoked sympathy and full-blown heartbreak. ‘Flood,” performed by senior Nora Peters, detailed how a woman with an embarrassing first sexual experience cut herself off from her sexuality. While this monologue had a few chuckle-worthy moments, the overall effect was rather heartwrenching, due in large part to the excellent performance by Peters.
But the monologues focusing on sexual abuse were infinitely more tragic. ‘Say It,” performed by senior Johanna Fischer, juniors Julia Glantz and Molly McDowell, sophomore Meghana Anugu and freshman Katie Pieper focused on women who were kidnapped by the Japanese government during World War II and forced into sexual slavery when they were young girls. Aged and now near death, they asked for an apology from the Japanese government. This was the first monologue to really grip the audience with the serious side of the show.
‘[M]any people are under the mistaken impression that the show is about extremist feminism, where the monologues consist of women ranting about how horrible men are,” Pieper said.
The theme of sexual abuse was featured in monologues like ‘My Vagina Was My Village” and ‘A Teenage Girl’s Guide to Surviving Sex Slavery.” And while these monologues were greatly outnumbered by the ones with a less heavy subject matter, they were the performances that left a lasting impression on the audience and truly spoke to the heart of the show.
The name of the play might make some wary of attending, as well as the popular (and incorrect) idea that it is feminist ideology in play form something that is very bothersome for those who know and love the play.
‘I’ve heard this from several people I know and it worries me, because the show is nothing like that,” Pieper said. ‘It is a show highlighting the variation in women’s experiences, in their personal lives and in society, all around the world.”
Howard is a member of the class of 2012.