Vagina Monologues ‘Empowering’

St. Mary’s College joined campuses across the country and organizations throughout the world by celebrating V-day with a production of The Vagina Monologues.

V-day is an event named after the organization whose mission is to “stop violence against women and girls.” The organization aims to raise awareness and money for the cause through different kinds of benefits, including productions of The Vagina Monologues whose proceeds go towards this cause.

As this year’s directors, Junior Alexis Lygoumenos and Sophomore Wesley Watkins made simplicity their theme, attempting to make the play as much like the actual interviews as possible, by setting the stage to look like a living room where the interviews took place and limiting costumes and props.

Lygoumenos said that the subtle costumes were chosen so that “the girls themselves wouldn’t stand out, but their words would.” In addition, all of the actresses sat on the ground around the stage, with pillows, blankets, and magazines. This set the tone for comfort and community.

The monologues took center stage, accomplishing the dual goal of raising awareness about violence against women, and causing people to spend some time thinking about vaginas. “It’s very enlightening, because of the show vaginas fascinate me,” said Watkins, going on to explain about how the show made him realize that women “have to discover their sexual physicality… to go through this process to discover this part of themselves.” The point was exemplified by sophomore Sarah Shipley in the introduction, when she got down on the ground and contorted her body in illustration of a business woman who was interviewed and said that she “just didn’t have the time” to find her vagina.

Senior Joanna Gibson, left, is introduced by Becca Tuttle at the Friday night performance of the show. (Photo by Brendan O’Hara)
Senior Joanna Gibson, left, is introduced by Becca Tuttle at the Friday night performance of the show. (Photo by Brendan O’Hara)

Other women took a different approach. For her monologue, Senior Micah Benons emerged from the back of the room, storming onto the stage and catching everyone’s attention with her attitude and enthusiasm. She drew laughter from the crowd with her rendition of “My Angry Vagina,” a monologue that ridicules, among other things, tampons and uncomfortable underwear.

This is just a small sampling of the play, which features the stories of a variety of different women who were interviewed and asked questions concerning their vaginas. The women varied in age, ethnicity, socioeconomic level, sexual orientation, and of course, in the stories that they told. Audience members seemed engaged by this variety. “I liked the diversity of the monologues; it was really interesting and different than I expected,” said Sophomore Kate Swiggett, after seeing the play for the first time.

It is perhaps this diversity that speaks to the broad variety of women who choose to act in the play, and those who come and see it. Benons explains, “it celebrates all walks of vagina, there’s something for everyone.”

Because the play is put on annually, audience members and actresses alike have the opportunity to see the same monologues inhabited by different women. “It’s cool to watch how the script can change so dramatically from year to year with the people’s experience, any woman can go up and tell another woman’s story because we all have vaginas and can all relate to that,” said Senior Kay Rubino, who has done the play since her first year on campus.

This year the play took place in the Great Room, which allowed for more people to come to each performance than had been possible in the past. The downside was the lack of available sound and lighting options, as well as less than stellar views for latecomers. The upside was that they raised $1988 in only three nights. Ninety percent of the money goes towards Walden Sierra, the local charity that was selected, and ten percent goes to the V- day foundation.

As a very effective, empowering play for women and vaginas, there is one question that often gets ignored: what about men? As it turns out, in order to put on The Vagina Monologues, the cast is required to follow a very extensive rule book which Lygoumenos describes as being “as thick as the script.”

The rules detail everything from how long the play should be, to who is allowed to perform in it, and there is a strict no men clause. Not all colleges and performance venues choose to follow all the rules, but at this year at St. Mary’s they made an effort to follow them all.

While all actors involved said that they understood why such rules were in place, several of them expressed a simultaneous desire for a less rigorous adherence. Senior Casey Burtenshaw, who this year handed out programs and acted as an usher has been involved in the production since he transferred to St. Mary’s and said, “I always do everything I can to help out.”

However, being a man, his options are very limited; a frustration that Watkins also faced, ultimately leading him to take on the role of codirector this year. Both men said that if they would enjoy being able to participate more fully if allowed. Burtenshaw explained, “watching how empowered these women are you can’t help but want to feel that way too.”

However, Burtenshaw is not bitter. To the contrary, he has an almost contagious enthusiasm for the play, and urges everyone to come see the play in the future. “Anyone who may have missed it this year, give yourself the opportunity one time to see it, the name or the issues might scare you but you will see how beautiful and empowering it is.”

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