This weekend, Wesleyan will host its annual performance of Eve Ensler’s “The Vagina Monologues,” the quintessential celebration of womanhood performed around the world during the month of February. The show, which first debuted in 1996, has gone on to become one of the most iconic representations of female empowerment. Wesleyan’s performance, directed by Emily Steck ’12, Julia Black ’13, and Alanna Greco ’13, will go up in the Patricelli ’92 Theater on Friday and Saturday. The Argus sat down with the directors to discuss the message of the show and the experience of putting it on.
The Argus: So, what inspired you three to work on this project?
Emily Steck: Well, it’s traditionally passed on from directors to directors. So the directors from last year, who were Lizzie Greenwald ’12, Cat Lum ’12, and Charlie Krem ’11, they approached me at the beginning of the year and offered me the chance to direct, and then let me choose two other cohorts. And I chose these freaks!
Julia Black: Lucky us.
Alana Greco: It’s also tradition that all the directors have been actors, and this year we even have two years of past directors in the show.
JB: And you can expect to see us in future shows, I’m sure!
ES: Katie Schad [’13] is our beautiful stage manager, by the way.
JB: Who needs major credit for everything that’s happened.
ES: Yeah, she’s perfect.
A: For people who aren’t familiar with them, what exactly are “The Vagina Monologues?”
JB: I’ll tell you what “The Vagina Monologues” are not. There is nothing anti-man in this play. We love men.
JB: This play is pro-woman, pro-sex, and life-affirming.
AG: It’s also not a group of girls talking about their own vaginas. Everybody always asks me what “my” vagina monologue is about, and I’m like, “that’s an inappropriate question.”
ES: These are set monologues written by Eve Ensler. That’s also the thing, it’s like, “Why do you hate dick? Why do you hate boys?” First of all, we did not write these. Eve Ensler writes these and there are serious rules and regulations that go along with putting on the show.
A: So if they aren’t anti-man pieces, what are “The Vagina Monologues?”
AG: Here’s what I do want to say about “The Vagina Monologues.” I think what’s awesome about this play, and why this play holds a special place in my heart, is that because of the nature of the content, the group of girls who do this play always end up forming this really strong bond, and it’s not like any other play I’ve been in. We’re all women doing this play, and we all have our own personal connection to our own monologues and can relate to other monologues, and again to one another. I think it’s really special because we all are coming from a similar place and we all grow together with this. We always say it’s so much more than a play, because it is: it’s activism, it’s friendship, it’s our experience. It is about performing, but it’s more about a transformation.
ES: It’s really empowering, also. I know a lot of people—I remember last year, at our first directors’ meeting, one of them was like, “Yeah I never used to want to even say the word ‘vagina.’ I thought it was weird.” It helps you feel much more comfortable as a woman in society, especially in regards to anything sexual.
JB: It’s all about bringing things out into the open. You know, you can’t communicate when everything’s shrouded in secrecy or sex is a taboo topic.
ES: And just because it’s empowering for women doesn’t mean it’s belittling to men in any way.
JB: I think every woman in this cast is pro-man in every way.
A: And I hear there’s a theme this year?
JB: There’s a spotlight every year; spotlights highlight issues going on around the world where women are violated in some way… It’s great that it keeps up with the world.
ES: There’s a huge activism part. This year the spotlight’s on Haiti. And so, V-Day—that’s the organization we get the rights through—ten per cent of our proceeds go to the V-Day Haiti Fund, and then we get to choose what we do with the rest.
JB: It’s going to SHOFCO. Shining Hope For Communities.
A: So are there any new monologues this year?
ES: Basically, there’s the normal script, and then there’s an optional monologue and the spotlight monologue. For the optional one you get around five, six to choose one from, and the one we chose is called “Under the Burqa,” and it talks about…
JB: Women’s issues under the Taliban.
ES: Yeah, that was one of the things we were concerned about when we picked it. In the introduction it recognizes that the burqa is many times a conscious choice, it’s more about—
AG: Being forced to wear it.
ES: Being forced to do anything. This just happens to be about the burqa.
JB: And the other one is our spotlight, which is a focus on the Haiti earthquake and how women are disproportionately affected by natural disasters. So it focuses actually on a friend of Eve Ensler’s, Myriam Merlet, who passed away in Haiti. And she was a big women’s rights activist there, and it just focuses on her story and the story of Haitian women after the disaster.
A: Have you guys had any challenges to overcome with your cast as far as comfort level, that kind of thing?
ES: People reject our room requests all the time.
JB: I think we can safely say that every girl in this cast has made a transformation. From the beginning, some people came in here, they were shy, they were uncomfortable, they were like, “What did we get ourselves into?”—
ES: With their monologues, not personally!
JB: No, but with this show. With what they were doing. And I think you’ll be excited to see the results, because it’s really come a long way since the beginning and they’re all remarkable young women.
ES: They are remarkable young women.
AG: Thanks, Grandma.
ES: Julia’s the really nice one of us, who’s really maternal.
AG: And I…
ES: And Alana’s cray-cray.
AG: I am known as the crazy director. Those are the stereotypes.
A: I can’t help but notice that there’s a tree onstage covered in panties. Is there a story behind that?
AG: [heavily droll] Well, I had a vision—a pro-feminist vision—of a chandelier…shrouded in lace panties. We could not find a way to get a chandelier and hang it, and then I saw Steck’s fabulous coat rack, and so…
JB: Explain what the panty tree means to you!
AG: [in the same vein] Ok, here’s what it means: at the beginning of the play we all brought our favorite seed from our favorite fruit, and as we grew together, the panty tree grew. And the panties on the tree represent the bond and the friendship and the sisterhood that we’ve accrued in our time here! Please note that I’m doing this all in a sarcastic voice.
JB: There’s a special surprise at the end of the play that will integrate it into our action nicely.
A: So we can expect to see a lot, then?
JB: I want to make a promise to our viewers that you will not want to miss a moment because it’s outrageous, it’s funny, it’s sexy, it’s touching. It’s going to bring a lot to the table. So get excited.