“It’s about bringing an end to violence against women.”
“It’s about female empowerment.”
Lately I’ve been keeping it simple: “It’s about vaginas.” Take it or leave it.
When I auditioned for “The Vagina Monologues” back in November, I knew that explaining my draw to the show was going to be a challenge. The night after I told my mother that I auditioned, she called to tell me that she’d googled the monologues and she didn’t think my participation was a good idea.
“You want to go into politics, Caroline. This could go on the Intenet. This could go on YouTube. This could end up on CNN.”
Life lesson: Talking about vaginas will lead to my professional demise. Got it, Mom.
But over the past couple of months, I’ve had to defend my decision to be a part of this show on quite a few occasions and not just to my mother. It hasn’t been easy. Between the show’s surrounding controversy and activism, everyone has an opinion on “The Vagina Monologues,” making it impossible to neatly sum up its importance and urgency. Contrary to what I told my male hallmates to entice them into showing up, the word “vagina” doesn’t cut it.
So, while I can’t give you a sound bite, I can give you my reasons: three reasons why “The Vagina Monologues” is not inappropriate or ostentatious, but necessary.
First, the bravery. When the first cast member stood up to do her monologue at our first dress rehearsal, she darted her eyes around the audience, prefacing the performance with “I’m sorry, guys. I’m just really nervous.” But when she strutted out from backstage, her black high-heeled boots hitting the floor in aggressive rhythm, she transformed into an entirely different person. She performed “The Woman Who Liked to Make Vaginas Happy.” Ending in a series of orgasmic moans, this monologue takes guts. But she owned it. She owned her body, owned the stage and owned the audience. To quote the play’s introduction, “At first, women were reluctant to talk. They were a little shy, but once they got going, you couldn’t stop them.”
“The Vagina Monologues” show isn’t only about the bravery of the cast members. It’s also about the bravery of the women who spoke up years ago to form the body of this script. Another reason that this show is so relevant is, therefore, the actual text of the stories we are bringing to life. In 1996, Eve Ensler interviewed 200 women to get their perspective on bodies, relationships and violence. The voice that emerged was unfettered by narrative and instinctively real. “The Vagina Monologues is empowering because it gives real women with real stories a voice,” said one of this year’s directors, Charlotte Weisberg ’13. “I wish shows like ‘The Penis Monologues’ or ‘The Princeton Monologues’ also existed, because everyone deserves to be heard.” There is no middleman (or, should I say, middle-woman) in this show — just one generation directly sharing its stories with the next.
My last reason is entirely dependent upon you, the audience. “The Vagina Monologues” is such a unique show because of the connection that it forges between the performers and the observers. In the intimate Class of 1970 Theatre in Whitman College, delivering our monologues is more like sharing secrets with friends than putting on a formal performance. We can lean over the banister and whisper in your ear or coax out your verbal response. But even more than the space, this connection flows inherently from the show’s subject matter. Discussing the intricacies of rape, pleasure and self-discovery in such a straightforward way creates an inevitable vulnerability for all members of the cast.
Three years ago, the cast of Princeton’s “The Vagina Monologues” performance performed curtain call in their underwear. Now, I’m not suggesting we do this again, but I think the metaphor works. We are putting it all out there. If we do it right, you will let your preconceived notions fade (my mother will stop screening audience members for cameras) and allow yourselves to be vulnerable along with us — vulnerable to the message of “The Vagina Monologues.”
There are a lot of reasons why “The Vagina Monologues” is the most widely-performed show on college campuses across America. Come feel those reasons for yourself. “The Vagina Monologues” is playing at the Class of 1970 Theatre on Thursday, Feb. 10 at 8 p.m.; Friday, Feb. 11 at 8 p.m.; and Saturday, Feb. 12 at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. I’ll be the one in neon green shouting “cunt.” Don’t be afraid to shout it with me.
Caroline Kitchener is a freshman from New Canaan, Conn. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Original URL: http://www.dailyprincetonian.com/2011/02/09/27514/