Vagina Monologues empowers with laughs
This weekend, a different kind of love was celebrated on the Hill with a performance of the global phenomenon The Vagina Monologues in Page Commons. The event was cosponsored and coproduced by The Bridge, The Feminist Alliance, Powder & Wig and Student Health on Campus (SHOC). Performed on Saturday, Feb. 18, the show ended Valentine’s week with humor, introspection and profound thoughts on relationships, love and identity.
The original Vagina Monologues was first drafted in 1996 by Eve Ensler (who visited Colby to speak in 2009) after a series of interviews with more than 200 women. What began as casual conversations with her female friends expanded in an eventual Off-Broadway play and an HBO mini-series.
Although performances of The Vagina Monologues vary according to audience and performer preference, there is a fairly consistent list of scenes that are staged in each showing. The topics of the monologues vary from the inconveniences of being a woman (“My Angry Vagina”), to the healing process after a traumatic sexual experience (“The Little Coochie Snorcher That Could”) to witnessing a birth (“I Was in the Room”).
Director Michael Trottier ’12 explained that the decision to produce The Vagina Monologues was a last-minute one, “but we ultimately decided to do [it] so we could give Colby a socially relevant production that spoke directly to issues we’re struggling with on campus.”
In addition to the accessibility of the content, the familiarity of the cast added to the strength of the show. Students performing monologues did not have to audition and were given their pieces based on their own personal preferences or connections to the material. Trottier believed that this approach helped the actresses to “put more work into monologues they really wanted, rather than monologues they were cast in. [It] also encouraged people who had never been on stage before to participate.”
Powder & Wig president Ali Reader ’12 was especially proud to be a part of the process, working with performers as a coach and reciting a monologue herself. She described her experience working on “Because He Liked to Look at It” as “incredibly relatable....The first time I read the monologue aloud I blushed from beginning to end and was convinced I was going to hate performing it. The subject was too personal and so true. But, I realized that it was a story of empowerment, of a woman learning to love her body just the way it is, and for me that is such an important message.” After being a part of the show, Reader said, “It was a chance to grow as an actress and as a person, and now I have more confidence in myself and my body.”
Unlike traditional Powder & Wig and other theatrical performances, The Vagina Monologues depended less on the efforts and success of the collective and more on the individual. “The rehearsal process was sparse and relied heavily on personal work,” Trottier explained. “Every performer had an acting coach that they met with a few times before the show.”
As a coach, Reader said that she began to see the real purpose of The Vagina Monologues as a movement and as an important experience for women when she witnessed the bond that began to form between cast members. “Their support for each other was something I witnessed...All the women with monologues were incredibly supportive and encouraging of one another. Even alone on stage we were never alone. Everyone was there for each other.”
Though it was only coincidence that the show opened on Valentine’s weekend, it worked as only serendipity can. “We honestly went with the only weekend that was available in our season...and that fell in the V-Day timespan.” A name that has typically referred to February 14th, V-Day in fact is an official day of awareness created by Ensler. According to the V-Day website, the organization is “a global activist movement to end violence against women and girls.” Not only did the timing work for symbolic purposes, but it also served as an opportunity to give back to V-Day; in return for the organization allowing Powder & Wig to use the script for free, ticket sales were donated to their cause.
Not only the cast and production team witnessed the success of the performers. The audience did as well, rewarding each actress with a standing ovation as she appeared on stage for a final bow. “I had been looking forward to seeing The Vagina Monologues for a while,” said Carey Powers ’14. “The production was fantastic. Every piece was well acted and full of emotion. As a whole, I think they brought up a lot of themes regarding sex, gender and sexuality that have been discussed during my time at Colby.”
Despite the intense and sometimes graphic nature of the monologues, the lessons of empowerment, pride and love shone through. The dedication and boldness of the females in the cast pulled together a show that not only entertained, but also helped the audience members to see what is valuable in themselves. “It was a beautiful thing to watch the show come together based on the actresses’ sheer force of will,” Trottier said. “This was definitely one of the happiest surprises of my Colby career.”