“Let’s just start with the word vagina. It’s a completely ridiculous, totally un-sexy word. It doesn’t matter how many times you say it— it never sounds like a word you want to be saying. If you use it during sex, trying to be politically correct — ‘Darling, could you stroke my… vagina?’ — you kill the act right there.”
That’s what Katie Mitchell, a grad student and member of the “Vagina Monologues” 2013 cast, said with an air of confidence and quirkiness as a sneak-peak of her part in the show.
Although this may seem like a stereotypical start to a show called the “Vagina Monologues” (and the baggage that comes with a title such as this), the show touches base on a number of controversial topics that any woman can relate to, including violence, rape, hair and masturbation.
“The point of this show is to actually talk about these issues— why we’re afraid to talk about these issues and how they impact women and, also, how they impact the human race in general,” Hannah Stanton-Gockel, director of this year’s show, said. “Violence against women is not specific to race or ethnicity or country or social class or anything like that. It’s present in every culture in the world and everywhere you look.”
The show, inspired by Eve Ensler’s “The Vagina Monologues,” consists of 10 dialogues composed of an introduction, narration and an excessive use of the awkwardly nameless word.
“It’s funny, because one of the big things that always affects people is that, before, they never said the word ‘vagina’ and they never said ‘cunt’ and it always made them very uncomfortable,” Stanton-Gockel said. “And then you get into this group of women and we’re like, ‘Vagina, cunt, cunt, vagina, clitoris, cunt, vagina…’ And everyone’s like, ‘I can say these words? I can take back the word cunt and make it an empowering statement? I can make it something beautiful instead of something derogatory?'”
Each year, the cast changes. With that, new stories erupt despite the fact that they use the same monologue.
“It changes peoples’ lives,” Sarah Stevens, a grad student and former director of the “Monologues,” said.
This is her sixth time working with the show. Stevens said that an individual’s experience brings fresh life to the production each year.
“It’s different for different people, which is why all the stories are different,” she said. “Everyone has a different experience.”
And, for those who fear the word “vagina,” the cast manages to create a friendly, non-awkward atmosphere with comedic relief, some instances unplanned.
“My freshman year, there was a child in the audience, and during the British one, the workshop [show], when she finally connects with herself and has an orgasm and finds her clitoris and so forth, the little child, I think it was a boy, goes, ‘YAAAAAY!’ so loud and the audience is cracking up and having this moment with this child. It was too perfect; it was just too much” Stevens said, laughing.
In honor of the 15th anniversary of the show, the performance is including a special monologue called “Rising,” which represents a larger movement called “One Billion Rising,” the global campaign created by the V-Day Movement and founded by Ensler to stop violence against women.
Ensler wrote the monologue while she was in India after a 23-year-old student died from rape injuries. It discusses how violence against women can happen anywhere.
“It is a call to rising, and rising is standing up and saying, ‘No, we’re not going to accept this violence against women,’” Stanton-Gockel said.
In correlation with the Steubenville rape trial, the “Vagina Monologues” takes precedence at an uncanny time. Athens residents took on a particularly empowering stance in recent months, such as participating in a flashmob last February to raise violence awareness.
“We are seeing this backlash against violence that is perpetrated against women in a lot of places around the world, which I think is awesome,” Stanton-Gockel said.
Check out “The Vagina Monologues” Sat. March 23 at 8 p.m. at Baker Center Theater. Tickets are $6 and proceeds go to My Sister’s Place, a domestic violence shelter for women in Athens, and the V-Day Movement.