‘Ginny, I’d like you to give me a tragic Zen moan.’ Excuse me? A what? I stood nerve-racked in the middle of a small lit stage in front of three strangers whom I’ve never met, but suddenly had to moan passionately to them. My thoughts were a jumble of swear words, the little voice in my head repeatedly questioned my sanity and I had no clue what a tragic Zen moan was. Was I really auditioning for ‘The Vagina Monologues’?
This all started days before, when I noticed a bright pink poster hanging among the arrays of club advertisements on the bridge between Cornerstone Cafe and the humanities buildings. Stressed out and wired on coffee, a single word popped up in front of me: ‘VAGINA!’
The poster was an audition call for ‘The Vagina Monologues’ production that performs every year for the students of UC Irvine.
The monologues are the creation of playwright, actor and activist Eve Ensler, who wrote and performed ‘The Vagina Monologues’ as a dedication to celebrate women and their sexuality. These monologues started from interviewing a variety of women about their perspectives on the vagina and, as a result, produced a performance piece and book that exposes social challenges that women face every day.
This play addresses issues like violence and rape, while questioning what it’s like to be a woman, to have an orgasm or to find the answer to the ultimate mystery of the universe: What is premenstrual syndrome? It integrates everyone (men included) into discovering the vagina for the first time.
I remember attending last year as a curious freshman, lured by the idea of participating in a subject that can make even the manliest man cringe with discomfort. A year later, as I stood in front of the poster, memories of coming out rosy cheeked, inspired and very vagina-positive made me bold enough to pick up a pen and sign my name away.
On the day of the audition, the stage manager told me to smile as he snapped a picture with his camera. I wasn’t sure if I smiled or awkwardly grimaced because all of a sudden it hit me! I, with no dramatic background and no idea what I was up against, was suddenly called onstage to moan, to act and to answer questions like ‘What would my vagina wear?’
Needless to say, I quit coffee the next day, but to my delighted surprise I received an e-mail a few weeks later welcoming me into ‘The Vagina Monologues.’ The first day of rehearsal was even worse on my nerves than the audition. As girls of various ages, races and backgrounds took seats in a circle in the small Humanities Interim Classroom Facility trailer room that was now our rehearsal room, Amy Tasker, a third-year drama major and the arts director of the production, asked us to explain who we felt we were performing for. Answers like: ‘For my girlfriends who can’t stand the word ‘vagina,” ‘For my grandmother who hugged me when she heard I got in’ or ‘For oblivious men in general’ forced me to ponder who I really wanted to perform for.
When it was my turn to share, an unexpected burst of tears flooded out the moment I opened my mouth and said, ‘For me.’ Internally, I was in shock at my own reaction. Why? Being brought up in a family of guys, crying would’ve been equivalent to my worst fear of being called ‘the emotional woman.’ Yet as I sat among a group of complete strangers who passed tissues and words of comfort, I realized that emotions were a part of what being a woman is about. It became just one of the many lessons I discovered down the road.
As opening night grows near, I reflect upon the bonds that have formed between these strangers and me through watching our growth as actors and also as women who identify with the issues of our characters.
Hearing many of my cast mates complain about the hardship of translating their roles to their multicultural families makes it more important to present the issue of women’s rights globally because many cultures still avoid addressing this topic.
This year’s production has chosen to perform a piece called ‘Say It’ that speaks out on behalf of abused women throughout the world who were forced into sexual slavery, and part of the proceeds will go to aiding these victims.
The word ‘vagina’ used to embarrass me. I didn’t even know what it looked like, let alone what it wore. However, through being a part of V-Day UCI, I discovered a new part of myself that has reunited who I am with what I am. I am a woman; I am a Vagina Warrior.
This year ‘The Vagina Monologues’ kicks off at the Studio Theater and the Bren Events Center on March 16, 17 and 18.
Tickets are being sold right now for $10 to $15 on Ring Road and through the Bren Events Center box office.