"The Vagina Monologues" challenges viewers with wit and intensity

The title of Eve Ensler's play "The Vagina Monologues" both perfectly explains the premise of the show and barely scratches the surface of its content. Yes, "The Vagina Monologues" features women talking about their privates, but there is so much more to this wonderful show than that.

Based on interviews Ensler recorded of hundreds of women, "Monologues" tells varying stories about sex, love, lust, rape, empowerment and everything in between. Some of the tales recounted to the audience are hilarious and uplifting while others are much darker.

Some of the heavier material included monologues about survivors of rape camps in Bosnia, female genital mutilation and the rape of a young woman. The final monologue examined the plights of women in post-Katrina New Orleans, post-earthquake Haiti and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. While the words carried a melancholic tone, the monologue expressed admiration toward the women of these areas for fighting and persevering through adversity.

Even with some dark subjects, the show still managed a plethora of light humor. It may be the only show where the audience shouting "cunt" is completely germane to the performance. Another particularly funny monologue entails a female sex worker discussing her fondness for moans, which concludes with a rousing and powerful "climax."

Senior Katie Nottke directed the show with the help of assistant director juniors Sara Koste and producer Emma Liberman.

"[‘Monologues'] is meant to be accessible to anyone, while at the same time putting people out of their comfort zone, which is important because nothing will ever change if everyone remains in their comfort zones forever," Koste said.

By accessible, Koste said she meant including males. While the title may imply a show that men would have difficulty connecting to and appreciating, Koste thinks otherwise. "I think it's just as important for men to attend as women because they would really enjoy its humor, intimacy and the diverse perspectives presented," said Koste.

One of the challenges Nottke and her team had to face was making the show unique and their own. Since there are no elaborate set pieces and there are seldom  differences in monologues, the biggest change from year to year is the women who participate.

According to Koste, this makes all the difference. "The great thing about the show is that its heart comes from the women in it and as the cast is different, they bring something new each year."

With so many powerful statements and emotions, the overall goal of the show is to empower women. Using the vagina as its symbol, the play analyzes women with respect and dignity in our patriarchal society. Perhaps one day the play will become a relic of the past due to the abolishment of the disparity between the sexes.   But for now, "The Vagina Monologues" trudges on, enlightening and entertaining audiences everywhere.

"The Vagina Monologues" ran from Feb. 9 - 11 in the KnightSpot. Proceeds from this year's show are going to Livingston County Chances & Changes, a program that offers aid to women who have experienced both physical and emotional trauma from domestic violence.