If the goal of “Shmagina Dialogues” is to build upon Eve Ensler’s famed “The Vagina Monologues,” then this year’s production achieved it with flying colors. “The Vagina Monologues,” which was first written and produced two decades ago, has received much critical acclaim for carving out a space for women to speak candidly about sex, relationships, and sexual violence. In spite of this groundbreaking aspect, many have criticized “The Vagina Monologues” for its lack of inclusivity, especially an era with increased visibility of transgender and gender fluid individuals.
At Wesleyan, these criticisms resulted in the creation of “Shmagina Dialogues” by Oliva May ’14 and Emma MacLean ’14 in 2013. As the name suggests, the production aims to be more open, inclusive, and interactive than the one to which it responds. This year’s production of “Shmagina Dialogues” took place last Thursday, Friday, and Saturday at WestCo Cafe and included traditional monologues, skits, and spoken word poetry. The breadth of topics covered aimed to put pressure on the content boundaries that “The Vagina Monologues” enacts.
Instead of bringing to light the experiences and perspectives of predominantly heterosexual women, as “The Vagina Monologues” has been criticized for doing, “Shmagina Dialogues” delves into a wider range of narratives, especially from the viewpoints of individuals whose stories are rarely told in mainstream feminist art. Several of the pieces addressed identity and the struggle of failing to fit into a category that could be universally understood and accepted.
The closing piece, entitled “Genderqueer is a Galaxy,” did just that. Presented by Colby Sangree ’18 and Madalena Henning ’15, the spoken word piece was a collaborative rumination on what it means to be genderqueer. Sangree and Henning evoked feelings of confusion, self-rejection, and ultimately, acceptance as they combined poetic language and powerful delivery in one the most powerful performances of the evening.
“Getting dressed in the morning is a choose-my-own-adventure game,” Henning recited.
Other performances deviated even more from the structure of the pieces that comprise “The Vagina Monologues.” Take, for example, a skit that pitted an anthropomorphic NuvaRing against an anthropomorphic DivaCup. The two products engaged in a series of playful upper hooks and wrestling holds on stage. The fight resulted in a surprising yet endearing companionship.
Overall, “Shmagina Dialogues” provided snapshots of the narratives that were omitted from Ensler’s monologues, and though the show is anything but cohesive, unity doesn’t really seem to be its goal. On the contrary, its lack of organization may work to further advance its mission, one that maintains that there is no singular narrative for women. It contests the idea that there is only one type of woman who should be represented, inserting marginalized voices into the feminist discourse by giving them a place onstage.