Vaginas, orgasms, abuse awareness, girl power, stage lights. What do these things have in common? “The Vagina Monologues.”
For the past 10 years, UCI students have joined the V-day movement to promote awareness of violence against women by producing the “Vagina Monologues.” “The Monologues” were originally written and performed by playwright Eve Ensler in 1996. Ensler interviewed 200 women about their sexual experiences, relationships and violence against women. These interviews eventually turned into the Vagina Monologues, serving as a voice for women all over the world, a voice that echoed through the performance by students here at UCI.
Performed over the weekend from the 21st to 23rd, the UCI production of “The Vagina Monlogues” was not only a show, but an opportunity for audience members to be educated on standing up to violence against women. Before the show and during the intermission, attendees could contribute to V-Day fundraising efforts by buying “Vagina Monologues” merchandise and meet representatives from the organizations that benefit from the funds, such as the CARE office and Women Helping Women. However, once the lights dimmed, the audience witnessed the issues that V-Day addresses turn into an entertaining reality on stage.
The show was a combination of theatricality in the form of monologues and contextual narration that shed light on the circumstances and underlying issues embedded in each scene. Emotion was not lacking in the performance, from comical acts such as the scene entitled “Wear and Say,” which addressed the question “What would your vagina wear, and say?” to the more serious and intimate monologues including “My Vagina Was My Village” on the topic of rape and mutilation in Bosnia. Many audience members were driven to tears with the presentation of these serious personal accounts of rape and sexual repression in the form of monologues.
In comparison to typical theatre performances with few lead characters, the “Monologues” focus on star cast members or two for every scene, which added a poignant sense of diversity and a variety of perspectives on the sexual issues women face.
The cast itself created a fair representation of women, as it was made up of a multicultural group of relatable young women. However, the scenes themselves also created a feeling of universality, as they were written and performed from the perspectives of women of various ages, nationalities and relationship statuses.
Though most of the performers that took the stage were not drama majors or particularly experienced in theatre before the show, these students took on the challenge of being in the spotlight to present heavy-hitting topics.
Some performances had theatrical skill, such as fourth-year Alexandra Enos’ portrayal of a sexually repressed elderly woman in the monologue entitled “The Flood,” which displayed mastery in character crafting and uniqueness through an impeccable age-specific accent.
As well as Gabrielle Ivie’s memorable performance of “The Woman Who Loved to Make Vaginas Happy,” which explored the narrative of a sex worker that ended with a display of different orgasms by the cast as well as Ivie herself, which reached out of the bounds of uncomfortable taboo into the world of female empowerment via sexual exploration.
Yet, as impressive as some of these acts were, what was more remarkable was the message and goal driving the show.
“We can do something about it. We are all vagina warriors when we speak out. A fellow vagina, my friend Lauren Wolf, said ‘You don’t have to have a vagina to be a woman, and you don’t have to be a woman to be a vagina,’” said director Melissa Maldonado. “I truly believe in our message of vagina love.”
With movements like One Billion Rising — a call to end violence against women — and organizations such as the CARE office that are benefitting from the show, the true talent in this performance was the dedication this group of students had towards promoting an idea that can help women everywhere.