The Vagina Monologues: encouraging women empowerment

Lindsey Brenkus, junior, uses a martini glass as her prop during the dress rehearsal of the Vagina Monologues Wednesday Feb. 12. Photo by Lauren Prescott.

Junior Lindsey Brenkus uses a martini glass as her prop during the dress rehearsal of “The Vagina Monologues” Wednesday, Feb. 12. Photo by Lauren Prescott.

Love is in the air as Valentine’s Day quickly approaches. Family, friends and significant others are given the opportunity to express their love for one another in gratuitous amounts on this special day of the year. But what about expressions of love for humanity? What about expressions of love for women?

For the 16th year in a row, Ohio University students will be performing the political theater piece known as “The Vagina Monologues” on Valentine’s weekend. The play was written in 1994 by feminist and activist playwright Eve Ensler as a celebration and call to action for female empowerment. Ensler conducted several interviews with multiple women, asking them what being a woman and what their vaginas meant to them. The play discusses a plethora of themes regarding the feminine experience, such as female anatomy, masturbation, menstruation, sex, orgasms, female mutilation, rape, birth, transgender females, homosexuality, various names for the vagina and the physical aspect of the vagina.

Ellenore Holbrook, freshman, uses her character to show the angry side of being a woman and how uncomfortable it can be. Photo by Lauren Prescott.

Freshman Ellenore Holbrook uses her character to show the angry side of being a woman and how uncomfortable it can be. Photo by Lauren Prescott.

The play contains 15 monologues, all of which are compilations of stories of the women Ensler interviewed.

“It’s not a play that has a basic beginning, middle and end,” said this year’s director of the show, Allie Erwin, a senior political science major with a focus in religion and women and gender studies.

The play consists of simple staging where the actresses come up one at a time and deliver their monologues. There are 20 cast members total, most of whom give the monologues while two others are cast as continuous narrators delivering context for the stories. A few members give introductions.

Erin Glaser, junior, feels the empowerment of her characters words and what they can mean to her. Photo by Lauren Prescott.

Junior Erin Glaser feels the empowerment of her characters words and what they can mean to her. Photo by Lauren Prescott.

The play’s main messages are calls to action for the vagina to be viewed as an embodiment of individuality and to stop violence against women.

“It’s not a play driven by plot, but by theme,” Erwin said. “The idea is that women aren’t empowered to speak about violence. If we don’t talk about things, we can’t change them.”

On Valentine’s Day in 1998, Ensler and group of women in New York City created V-Day, a global movement to promote awareness and raise money for anti-violence organizations. Today, “The Vagina Monologues” is performed on and around the holiday with a focus on donating to local organizations in the communities where the play is showcased. All proceeds from Ohio University’s production go to My Sister’s Place, a local safe house for women and children. The play has been funded and presented by Ohio University’s Women Center for two years now, taking over the show after its previous host, the OU acting troupe Lost Flamingo Company.

Alex Marks, junior, thinks solemnly as her character explains her first encounter with a "beautiful woman". Photo by Lauren Prescott.

Junior Alex Marks thinks solemnly as her character explains her first encounter with a “beautiful woman.” Photo by Lauren Prescott.

This is Erwin’s third year taking part in the production, having delivered monologues for the past two years and doubling as the assistant director last year.

“When I first got involved with ‘The Vagina Monologues,’ I had no idea what they were,” Erwin said. “I just auditioned, and it was one of the most significant decisions I made.”

Erwin spoke about how the cast participates in something called table-work, which is a discussion of themes in the show. Being in the cast also helped to develop a sense of sisterhood with fellow members through communication and closeness for Erwin.

“The show is a great way to make the audience feel empowered. Even if you’re not interested in theater, it’s for a great cause.”

The showings for “The Vagina Monologues” are Feb. 13 and 15 at 7 p.m. in Baker Theater, with a Valentine’s Day performance at the same time in Glidden Hall room 480.

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