Vaginas were given their moment in the spotlight at Women in Learning and Leadership’s ninth annual production of “The Vagina Monologues.” Shows were held on Friday, Feb. 18 and Saturday, Feb. 19 at the Mildred and Ernest E. Mayo Concert Hall.
The “Monologues” was created by Eve Ensler, a playwright, performer and activist who interviewed more than 200 women about their vaginas in 1996, compiling their stories into the monologues performed throughout the show, according to Ensler’s interview with Random House.
“The Vagina Monologues” is a part of V-Day, a “global movement to stop violence against women and girls,” according to the show’s program.
The monologues left few vaginas unexplored. Hairy vaginas, angry vaginas, vaginas that liked men and vaginas that preferred women were all given their moments to shine. Armed with pink notecards, the performers threw themselves into their roles, engaging the audience with their stories of humor, violence and, of course, love.
The nearly-packed audience was treated to tales of women learning to masturbate, wondering what their vaginas would wear and talk about and thinking back on the partners that taught them to love the space between their legs.
In the hilarious “Reclaiming Cunt,” senior international business major Katie McShane was hell-bent on taking back her favorite four letter word, showing so much enthusiasm that, by the end of the monologue, she had the audience chanting it along with her.
More serious monologues revolved around domestic violence and rape.
By far the most powerful monologue of the night was “My Vagina Was My Village,” performed by junior English secondary education major Micaela Ensminger. She portrayed a Bosnian woman who loved her vagina until she was brutally raped by soldiers.
A tense, horrified silence settled over the crowd as Ensminger spoke. When asked how she handled such an emotionally charged role, she said, “It was just a matter of listening to the words. They’re really simple but really disturbing. They brought me to this dark place, but I wanted to tell this woman’s story.”
The night’s featured monologue was performed by Mary Lynn W. Hopps, adjunct professor of women’s and gender studies and the director of W.I.L.L. The monologue was in honor of Myriam Merlet, an activist who brought V-Day and “The Vagina Monologues” to Haiti. Merlet was killed in the 2010 earthquake in Haiti.
At the end of the show, the cast and directors of “The Vagina Monologues” honored Susan Boughn, part-time professor of nursing at the College,
senior international studies major Elizabeth Bryndza, a breast cancer survivor, and Cecilia Colbeth, the program assistant for the women’s and gender studies and English departments, as this year’s “Vagina Warriors” for their work with women’s issues and campaigns in the past.
As an emotional closing to the night, audience members were asked to stand and “break the silence” if they knew anyone who had been sexually abused or beaten. A large portion of the crowd stood, showing how much work still needed to be done to end the violence against women and girls today.
Julie Anne Garretson, senior psychology and women’s and gender studies double major, who was one of this year’s directors of the show, was very pleased with the finished product.
“Every year is amazing,” Garretson said. “The best part is the people who see it for the first time. Before they’re like, what the heck? Then they get it. That’s why we do it.”
Proceeds from the show will go to Manavi, a New Jersey-based organization working to end the violence against South Asian women living in the U.S., C.A.R.E., an organization fighting global poverty, and this year’s Spotlight Campaign, the Women and Girls of Haiti.