By Taylor Stone
To quote the Facebook page for Bryn Mawr College’s production of the “Vagina Monolgues, “The ‘V’ in V-DAY stands for Victory, Valentine, and Vagina”.
BMC has a history of staging entertaining, profound, and unique productions. But it is the annual performance of Eve Ensler’s “The Vagina Monologues,” which was put on this past weekend, that most evokes the spirit of BMC like this past weekend’s “Vagina Monologues.”
“The Vagina Monologues”, is part of the “V-Day” movement, a global activist movement to stop violence against women and girls. It works as a catalyst that promotes creative events to increase awareness, raise money and revitalize the spirit of existing anti-violence organizations.
As evident from the title, the play consists of a series of monologues from several women, exploring diverse themes focusing on the vagina. Birth, rape, and sexual exploration were some of the topics touched upon and tastefully combined humorous and melancholy pieces.
This year’s production, which was put was directed by Jessica Wong and Erin Washburn and was produced by Tyler Williams. 90 percent of the proceeds go to Laurel House, a safe haven for victims of domestic violence in Montgomery County. The remaining proceeds benefit the 2012 Spotlight Campaign, focusing on the women and children of Haiti.
The movement itself has had enormous success. In 2011, more than 6000 V-Day events took place around the world. To date, the V-Day movement has raised over $80 million and reached over 300 million people. Bryn Mawr’s own production has had enormous resonance for the academic community.
“At its core, ‘Vagina Monologues’ is a deeply celebratory experience,” Washburn said. “Even during the more tragic monologues, the show is connected to this idea of rejoicing. We are women, we are beautiful, we are fighting, we have only begun. I think this resonates especially at Bryn Mawr because we’re exposed to this kind of rejoicing every day. We are comfortable in our bodies (or we’re learning to be), we are comfortable as women (or we’re learning to be), and we are proud. “Vagina Monologues” is just one of the many ways we can express that pride”.
Wong agreed that the production is particularly successful at BMC due to the respectfulness and openness of its community.
“Because Bryn Mawr is a community comprised almost entirely of women and we generally tend to be pretty liberal, it is easy for our campus to embrace the message behind the show”. Wong said. “I was just reading the other night about conservative groups that exist on other college campuses that oppose ‘Vagina Monologues’. I can’t imagine how it would be to put on this production in the face of opposition. I can’t fathom why someone would be against this show, because ultimately the goal is to end violence against women. I’m glad that Bryn Mawr’s community is so open and respectful, so that a piece like this can really thrive on our campus and make a difference”.
The show has been able to have an emotional impact on so many women due to the sheer diversity of themes covered in the different pieces. In the show, stories were told in a remarkable way that related the collective community of women to the specific, personal issue being explored.
“My favorite monologue is actually ‘They Beat the Girl out of my Boy…or so they tried’”, Williams said. “It’s a five person ensemble piece which stems from Ensler’s interviewing various transwomen. The monologue is optional and is not often performed but this year we chose to include it in our program. It speaks to me as a transman, because the fear and yet ultimate triumph of being able to transition into one’s intended body, is palpable in the monologue. To me, it is the most joyous and simultaneously sorrowful piece in the show”.
Another monologue that highlighted the performance was “The Flood”, which focused on the tragically funny memories of an old woman concerning her own experiences with her vagina.
While BMC’s performance is simply one of thousands, its remains undoubtedly significant in the grand scheme of the movement’s central message.
“I think V-DAY is a huge endeavor,” Washburn said “To try to eliminate violence against women and dismantle thousands of years of patriarchal oppression it ambitious, to say the least. I think it takes a mad, grandiose sort of courage to embark on such a mission, but Ensler’s confidence that it can be done is pretty inspirational. When you realize that there are literally thousands of “Vagina Monologues” being spoken all across the country, or even all across the world, it does make you feel like you’re part of something. It makes that grandiose idea seem possible”.
Above all else, “The Vagina Monolgues” (though providing richly profound entertainment) unites women in the face of oppression and violence in a fresh, provocative manner.