As the pews of the chapel filled with people, one would notice that the audience
was not a typical group of church goers. The group was compromised of mostly women and some men dispersed throughout – presumed to be boyfriends. Before the performance started, conversations sprung up about how “thank god it’s Friday,” plans for the weekend, and often conversations about their Women Studies classes, or previous performances of The Vagina Monologues. And, of course, what to expect.
I had never attended The Vagina Monologues and wasn’t sure what to expect beyond what people had described to me. Most people told me that it was funny yet very serious and at the same time, incredibly empowering. One boy told me that he heard it was a performance of women’s vaginas actually telling their stories but he wasn’t sure how this really played out.
The Vagina Monologues were written by Even Ensler and were first performed off-Broadway in 1994. Ensler said that she came upon the monologues through a conversation with a friend who was going through menopause. She was intrigued by how her friend was a feminist but still despised her vagina. Ensler began talking to more of her friends and discovered how many women think of their vagina as an entity separate from their body and in some ways have personified it. The Vagina Monologues are based off of dozens of interviews that Ensler conducted and then compiled into a performance piece. Initially Ensler performed all of the monologues herself as a one-woman show.
After the pieces, Ensler described how many women would come up to her after the shows, eager to tell their own stories. This inspired V-Day, a nonprofit set up to prevent violence against women and change social attitudes surrounding women’s rights. Every year during the months of February, March, and April, Ensler allows the play to be performed (without writer’s fees) as long as the proceeds are donated to local women’s activist groups. Goucher performed the play on March 28 and March 29 and donated the $5 admission fees to Turn Around, a domestic violence and assault center in Baltimore. This year’s production raised over $1,000 for the organization.
The diverse narratives that are acted out by Goucher students not only became inspirational for the audience but for the actors as well. Performer Emily Hewlings ’16 said, “I loved that there were different characters portrayed on stage, from a six-year-old girl and a seventy-two-year-old woman to an angry feminist and a sex worker, all offering different perspectives based off one theme: the female experience.”
As the performers sat at the front of the chapel, none of them looked nervous or hesitant of the powerful stories they were about to share. The monologues, though each unique, flowed together to create a chronicle of the hardships and successes of being defined by having a vagina.
Just as I had no idea what I was “getting into” by entering the chapel last Friday, some of the performers had never even read or seen The Vagina Monologues before they auditioned. Adeena Ellison ’16 auditioned almost on a whim. “I think because I had never seen any of them before performing I was able to really appreciate every person in the performance for their personal influence on the pieces.” The Vagina Monologues extends beyond being just a play – it is personal and transformative experience for the performers, empowering for the audience, and supportive of a good cause.
For more information visit: vday.org and urnaroundinc.org