On the tiny stage of the CFA Hall last weekend, a group of 18 women performed – and many more of all sexes and ages gathered – in honor of one of our culture’s most taboo subjects: the vagina.
Although many, without a doubt, are fans of the vagina (I admit a proclivity for it myself), it remains an uncomfortable topic for many in our society. Eve Ensler’s “The Vagina Monologues” aims to demystify the vagina and to celebrate feminine sexuality in a way that is lacking in our everyday discussions about women. At the University, productions of “The Vagina Monologues” are an annual event; the proceeds from ticket sales went once again to charity, this year to the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN).
Proceeds aside, “The Vagina Monologue” was a singularly excellent production, both moving and funny in turns. As a male viewer, there were times, I freely admit, when there was a disconnect between myself and the stories being told onstage. I understood the meaning of the words being said, but there were certainly times when, not being female, I didn’t quite get their full sense, and this is always a problem with such heavily topical plays. I have to say, though, that the performers did an excellent job with their material, and at 18 players with three directors, I’m sure this was no easy task.
One early highlight was Alanna Greco ’13 in a monologue titled “The Flood,” portraying an older woman entirely out of touch with her own sexuality. Precise and elegant even when talking about such “dirty” things, it was a notably polished performance that still felt like a conversation, one that evolved from a clinical discussion to a poignant defense of the woman’s own discomfort. She said, in reference to her vagina, “It’s a place. A place you don’t go.” Another excellent conversational piece was performed by Sarah Schorr ’12 in “Because He Liked to Look at It,” a humorous and touching piece about a woman who, unlike so many of that evening, had had a wonderful experience with a man.
Some other monologues were nearly silly. Alana Perino ’11 gave an incomparable performance of the staple, “My Angry Vagina,” a rant on the difficulties and frustrations of living with a vagina; Avery Trufelman ’13 had a wonderful piece called “The Woman Who Loved to Make Vaginas Happy” which involved, suffice it to say, a great deal of moaning and quaking. The prize for energetic and entertaining performance, however, goes without doubt to Tara Abaring ’10, for her performance as a Philadelphia woman devoted to “Reclaiming Cunt.” By the time she had everyone in the audience chanting, “Cunt! Cunt! Cunt! Cunt!” we were completely in her thrall; to pour out energy in a communal way like that is a rare but enjoyable experience.
And there were, of course, darker monologues. “My Vagina Was My Village,” performed by Naakai Addy ’12, was a particularly powerful piece to close Act One, taken from interviews with Bosnian rape victims. The night ended with “A Teenage Girl’s Guide to Surviving Sex Slavery,” a tribute to RAINN’s work in Africa, and the personal testimony of a girl identified only as Marta, who was a Congolese rape victim along with two of her friends, Elisa and Serwati. Julia Black ’13 and Katya Botwinick ’13, who divided the horror and the “guide” between them, performed this intimate, compelling, and incredibly tragic piece.
Ultimately, though, “The Vagina Monologues” was an uplifting event. There were, of course, monologues that contributed to this feeling—one particularly beautiful piece was written by Eve Ensler herself about watching a birth, and performed by Adrienne Leach ’12—but there was more to it than that. This was, after all, a gynocentric event: 18 women, all dressed in black clothes with red highlights, on a simple stage, and lots of listeners, hearing the stories of other women across space and time. The transmission of “The Vagina Monologues” is itself a continuation and recognition of those same stories. And that, by itself, is worth celebrating.