Vagina. It’s not a body part we’re used to discussing intelligently. The word is hidden under countless slang terms and bad jokes, avoided with wordplay, laughs, and averted eyes. But on Feb. 19 and 20 at 7:30 p.m., nine Lawrence women from the V-Day organization will present Eve Ensler’s “Vagina Monologues,” a theatrical discussion of women and their most personal testimonies and taboos that spans the emotional spectrum from shock to humor to pain.The “Vagina Monologues” are based almost solely on Ensler’s provocative 1997 book of the same name. After interviewing hundreds of women with acutely personal questions, Eve Ensler published “The Vagina Monologues” and put on a one-woman show based on the text. She soon thereafter started the V-Day organization, which has as its mission to “try to end violence against women through creativity.” 590 college campuses now have V-Day organizations, and their main yearly event is a production of “The Vagina Monologues,” which have been slightly changed from their original form to include nine actors.
Kassandra Kuehl, a freshman who founded the V-Day chapter at Lawrence this year, directs the “Vagina Monologues.” Kuehl says that the main message of the monologues is “not to be afraid of yourself, and to triumph over adversity.”
The eleven main monologues include uncomfortable but witty discussions on familiar, personal subjects like menstruation, pubic hair, and childbirth, but make a grim turn with the story of a prostitute, and even the testimony of an Afghan woman under Taliban rule. Meredith Ostling, a freshman and one of the assistant directors in the “Vagina Monologues,” says that the play is shocking, but not too shocking for anyone at Lawrence. “Even my grandma wants to read the book!” says Ostling.
With minimal props—very few other than the microphones and red clothing that has come to define the show—and diverse and deeply personal monologues, Kuehl and Ostling believe that the actors will reach out and interact with the thoughts and emotions of the audience. “The ‘Vagina Monologues’ open you up to the world of women,” says Ostling.
Miriam Lara-Meloy, a junior at Lawrence and an actress in the play, spoke about the groups of people she hopes will come to see the show. She expects that those with a sincere interest in feminism or even a curiosity about the radically personal nature of the show will come to expose themselves to another aspect of feminism. But in addition, she hopes that those who are upset by the idea of the monologues, upset by feminism, even upset by the public airing of usually unspoken words like vagina, cunt, and orgasm, will come to discover reasons for their anger and disgust or possibly even reasons to erase their resentment.
The story of the Afghan woman is one of Lara-Meloy’s monologues, and she warns that it, like the other pieces that make up the work, is “a true story, but not the story of every woman.” The monologues are a piercingly personal look at the lives of a few, but do not attempt to represent the infinitely diverse joys and plights of all women.
Lara-Meloy commented that the “Vagina Monologues” are entertainment, but also present some radical views about feminist thought. “People should have their eyes open about feminism and diverse ideas,” says Lara-Meloy.
This is not the first year the “Vagina Monologues” have been staged at Lawrence, but this year’s production represents a significant leap in ambition. The V-Day organization didn’t follow their predecessor, DFC, which had performed the show the last three years in the underground coffeehouse, but rather, took a large and bold leap by booking the Lawrence Memorial Chapel. Although the women in the show seem slightly overwhelmed about their huge venue, they are hopeful that the Chapel will give them the opportunity to reach many more people about feminism and the V-Day organization.
The V-Day organization at Lawrence stands for much more than the eye-opening novelty of the show. The ticket price ($5 for students and $7 for adults) will go to the Fox Cities Rape Crisis Center, and to advocacy groups for the prevention of female genital mutilation.
The “Vagina Monologues” not only stand for worthy causes, but also have been recognized and embraced throughout the country. Ostling, who is from Novato, California, says that all her friends at home are familiar with the “Vagina Monologues” through the acclaim of Eve Ensler’s one-woman show and through her local Girl Scout troop. Professional productions of the play are currently being staged throughout the nation and the world, including on Broadway and on London’s West End.
V-Day plans to travel to Appleton high schools in the coming weeks to spread publicity about the monologues. Tickets are available by calling 731-6402 or at Conkey’s bookstore before the show, and are also available at the door.