‘Vagina Monologues’ returns to campus

By Thomas Infante
Arts & Entertainment Editor

Brave, charismatic and angry are not three words that are traditionally considered synonymous with “vagina.” However, The Vagina Monologues is far from a normal production. The show’s raw language and thought-provoking subject matter forced the audience to think about the vagina in both a literal and a symbolic sense, and the result is quite different than any other theater experience.

The Women in Learning and Leadership (WILL) program produced the annual show, which was performed during the weekend of Friday, Feb. 19, to Sunday, Feb. 21, in Mayo Concert Hall.

The Vagina Monologues has seen much exposure and success since its conception by playwright Eve Ensler in 1996. Ensler has received multiple awards for the script, which has since been adapted into an off-Broadway play, as well as a televised version produced by HBO.

The Vagina Monologues’ stress the importance of discussing uncomfortable topics. (Heiner Fallas / Photo Assistant)
The Vagina Monologues’ stress the importance of discussing uncomfortable topics. (Heiner Fallas / Photo Assistant)

“Ensler spoke to over 200 women to get the ideas for the show,” said freshman women’s and gender studies major and Vagina Monologues performer Molly Knapp. “The identities are kept anonymous so that the stories are more relatable to the audience.”

The show featured a variety of accounts with highly varied subject matters. Some of the monologues were lighthearted and silly, while others were dark and depressing.

One of the funniest monologues, titled “The Flood,” detailed the story of an elderly woman who wasn’t particularly proud of her vagina. Senior English and self-design publishing and editing double major performed the monologue.

“Down there? I haven’t been down there since 1953,” Acebal joked on stage, imitating a heavy New York accent. “And no, it had nothing to do with Eisenhower.”

Almost all of the monologues were performed solo. The background set was minimal, featuring only a few bleachers for the other actresses to sit on after they had finished with a giant letter ‘V’ projected behind them. It was a surreal setting for a similarly surreal display of performance art.

Right: Performances vary from light-hearted and funny to serious. (Heiner Fallas / Photo Assistant)
Performances vary from light-hearted and funny to serious. (Heiner Fallas / Photo Assistant)

Much of the audience seemed to be at a loss for words while listening to the more explicit and bizarre monologues, one of which was performed by senior communications major Jackie Kuczinki. It featured the actress feigning orgasms for several minutes without end.

“During the first night there was an old man sitting in the front row during her performance,” Knapp said. “Watching his awkward reactions (was) incredible. He shielded his eyes and looked at the floor.”

The older man’s reaction echoed the sentiments of many audience members during certain performances, but didn’t shock the performers. The raw nature of some monologues would inevitably be off-putting to some audience members.

“We were really nervous about bringing this show to a wider audience than the people we usually work with,” freshman communication studies and women’s and gender studies double major Katherine Smith said.

“The Vagina Monologues” marked the first time Smith ever acted on a stage.

“We just want to get people talking about vaginas,” Smith said. “Talking about vaginas is more of a societal taboo than it should be, considering how many people have them.”

The most powerful monologues were those that featured very serious and saddening topics. At one point, a shocking statistic was presented to the audience — 130 million women and girls around the world today have been victims of female genital mutilation and this number is, unfortunately, still growing.

Moments like these serve as a reminder of the true importance of being able to talk about these pressing yet uncomfortable issues. Only once we can openly and maturely discuss theses issues can we begin working to resolve them. This seemed to be the mission of the show and its performers. The monologues made a clear statement that there are times when vaginas need to be discussed, and nobody should feel the need to shy away from such discussion.