It’s rare to see a performance that asks the audience to take a cold hard look at themselves. It’s even more rare to see a performance that tells the viewer to take a hand-held mirror and literally get an eyeful.
It’s that sort of abrupt, frank look at important issues surrounding females that encourages the Women’s Action Coalition to continue presenting “The Vagina Monologues” each spring semester.
This year, WAC held the performances from Friday Feb. 16 to Sunday Feb. 18 in Sturges Auditorium.
The play was written by Eve Ensler in the late ‘90s. It has received widespread acclaim as an important piece of feminist media, but perhaps just as famously, it has received widespread criticism.
No one text can truly be upheld as a perfect feminist work, and one of the most essential things about any performance is that it changes every time it is delivered. Ensler has added more monologues to the performance since its original debut, expanding on what it means to be a woman over the years.
Director senior Marley DeRosia has been participating in “The Vagina Monologues” since her freshman year. She believes the play is still being produced because it focuses on the hardships women experience.
It’s difficult to imagine a more uncomfortable subject to discuss in front of an audience than the vagina. That seems to be the reason why it’s necessary to have the conversation in the first place.
The show covers a range of taboo topics: genital mutilation, rape, sex, shaving, birth, being transgender, sexual identity, orgasms, sex work and more.
One shining monologue from the show describes the brutal, yet honest, story of a woman who was in the room for the birth of her granddaughter, as she witnesses the raw truth of the wonder of childbirth.
Biochemistry major senior Victoria Stevens played this character and has performed in “The Vagina Monologues” multiple times, but this performance was particularly moving for her.
“I did the ‘Vagina Monologues’ my freshman year and I didn’t really feel a connection to it,” Stevens said. “But I’ve been through kind of a lot through my college career.”
Stevens said that by becoming more passionate about women's rights combined with the help of having lived through more experiences brought her closer to the show.
Alongside the important political message, co-director senior Ray Gdula explained that for her, having the bravery to perform a show this uncomfortable is also personally empowering.
“It’s so important to build that self-confidence and break down those barriers,” Gdula said.
History major senior Jenna Lawson played the narrator, and reflected similarly on her past performances.
“The first time I did it I was totally out of my comfort zone, really uncomfortable talking about these sorts of things,” she said. “This year I got to play myself and I got to make these things more casual and communicative then they usually are.”
Lawson’s performance was comic at times and grave at others, employing voices and confetti in a way that invited a light mood, while including shocking facts to show the seriousness of the issues.
Biology major senior Laura D’Amico played a woman enthusiastically reclaiming the pejorative term for the vagina, “cunt,” and took a chance acting in the show.
“I did the ‘Vagina Monologues’ to get out of my comfort zone,” D’Amico said. “I’ve always been afraid to take a part or talk about sexual subjects. Not everything about being a woman has to be sexual, if you think about it, it’s just that these are our organs; we are female.”
Proceeds from the performance, as always, go to a local charity fighting domestic violence, this year being Chances and Changes. In some ways, this is to put the money where all the talk of vaginas is; helping real women and men in dire straits.