“Our pussies are under attack, and what are we doing about it? I say we STAND UP!” said Una Osato ’04 in the opening monologue of the “Vagina Monologues.” The rest of the monologues, performed Thursday and Friday night at Crowell Concert Hall, did exactly that, discussing the vagina from over 25 different perspectives, raising pride in the vagina and money for the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital in Ethiopia.
Twenty-two Wesleyan students performed selections from Eve Ensler’s “Vagina Monologues,” which premiered in a 1996 off-Broadway one-woman show. Ensler’s monologues originated in over 200 vagina interviews that she conducted and then converted into her now popular production.
“Women secretly love to talk about their vaginas,” said Erika Bonnevie ’07, Hallie Cooper-Novack ’07, and Namrata Kotwani ’06, representing the evening’s emcees, or in this case, Eves.
Four students, like Osato, presented personal monologues interwoven with Ensler’s classic style.
The monologues ranged from discussing abuse and assault, female genital mutilation, hair and shaving, how they look, how they smell, menstruation, names for vaginas, and of course, orgasms. The characters interviewed ranged in age from 72 to 6 years old.
“Down there…it’s a place, a place you don’t go,” said Gina Eichenbaum-Pikser ’05, playing a 72-year-old woman at her interview, which inspired the monologue “The Flood.” In contrast, Lilly Yamamoto ’07 gave an interview as a 6-year-old, much more comfortable in discussing her vagina.
The attitudes and moods varied as much as the ages of the characters, reflecting the different experiences of each character with her vagina.
In “The Vagina Workshop” and “Because He Liked to Look at It,” characters played by Tara Quinn ’04 and Katie Koerten ’07 respectively discussed the process they went through in order to appreciate their own vagina. In “My Vagina Was My Village,” Tussy Alam ’07 portrayed a Bosnian woman who had been raped and tortured in war and had therefore lost her appreciation of her vagina.
Despite the different portrayals of the vagina, the theme of reclaiming the vagina recurred throughout the monologues. The monologues showed that the vagina does not have to be idealized, but can be beautiful and embraced.
“Don’t believe them when they tell you ‘Oh, it smells like rose petals’- it’s supposed to smell like pussy!” exclaimed Jennifer Celestin ’07 in the monologue “My Angry Vagina.”
Jessica Rhodes ’07 and Emilie Phelps ’07 reclaimed more than just vaginas, breaking down the word ‘cunt’ letter-by-letter into a proud, sexy word instead of a derogatory term.
The audience was very receptive and engaged in the monologues, reacting to the different emotions the performers emitted.
“I thought Una’s [Osato] monologue was really great. She was very intense and kind of jarring,” said Liam McAlpine ’07 “She’d have everyone laughing and then there’d be absolute silence five seconds later.”
A first time “Vagina Monologues” viewer, McAlpine said, “I wasn’t entirely sure of what to expect I guess, but it was a great production.”
Directed by Tessa Baker ’07 and Ewurabena Hutchful ’07, the interpretation of the monologues was a collaborative effort between everyone involved in the production.
“We wanted everyone to have their own input and voice,” Hutchful said. “We started with one-on-one rehearsals with Tessa and me, and later moved on to group rehearsals where everyone would comment. We took out certain things if they were particularly offensive, but we basically wanted to give the performers the freedom to do whatever.”
All proceeds from this year’s ticket sales and extra donations will be given to The Fistula Hospital in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The Fistula Hospital performs corrective surgery, at no cost, for women with obstetric fistula, a condition of obstructed labor resulting in the stress of child-birth pushing a hole through the woman’s bladder.
“I was actually watching Oprah one day and Barbara Hamlin, the founder [of the hospital], was on, and [it seemed] they needed a lot of help,” Hutchful said.
A yearly event, the “Vagina Monologues” premiered at Wesleyan in 2000 and is performed nationwide for V-day, to stand up against violence against woman and raise pride in the vagina. First observed on Feb. 14, 1998, V-day has grown into a movement- standing for victory, valentines, and vagina- with events occurring on or around Valentine’s Day.