“The vagina becomes a site for women’s empowerment and individuality among women,” Olivia Robbins ’16 said, in reference to the play she is co-directing with Azza Cohen ’16, Eve Ensler’s “The Vagina Monologues.”
Ensler, the play’s author, interviewed over 200 women about the female experience and compiled them into her 1996 play. An annual show at Princeton, “The Vagina Monologues” will be performed Feb. 11-13 in Theatre Intime. Princeton’s version of “The Vagina Monologues” consists of several monologues based on and adapted from Ensler’s script. Normally each monologue features one person, but some have two or three people involved.
“[The play] offers some, and certainly not all, narratives of womanhood – what it’s like to have a vagina,” Robbins added.
Both Cohen and Robbins, the play’s directors, are directing for the first time and many of the cast members have never acted before. However, the majority are not strangers to the stage, since many have previous experience in dance and music.
“There's an amazing energy to acting on stage for the first time, and a pure, raw evocation that I am so proud of our actors for creating and sustaining,” Cohen said, in an email statement.
Take Dominique Ibekwe ’16 for example: an actress with no previous acting experience, Ibekwe will perform a monologue called “Angry Vagina,” a relatively comedic piece.
“It’s been a different experience,” Ibekwe said. “I haven’t actually been around a female-dominated group or environment since I played varsity lacrosse in high school.”
Ibekwe is a dancer and a stepper, and belongs to a predominantly male friend group at Princeton.
“I’m putting myself in a situation that I haven’t been in a while, and it’s nice to be with other women who think about the same things,” Ibekwe said.
Like many of the actresses, the directors are new to their roles, and like all performances there are some obstacles to overcome.
When asked about her concerns for the show, Robbins expressed a need to publicize.
“The first challenge is to publicize it and make sure we are bringing in a new audience,” Robbins said.
To achieve crossover appeal, the directors and producers have invited many fraternities and male sports teams to come see the show, and have asked each actor to bring at least one male friend to the performance.
“Men should support women on campus by coming to the show,” Robbins said. “I think they will find it funny and they will find it moving and will hopefully learn something.”
“The most difficult part, which is simultaneously the most rewarding part, is the material of the show,” Cohen said. “The script is both inspiring and devastating to read, rehearse and feel the range of female experience.”
Cohen performed the opening piece “Hair” herself two years ago. It’s a story where a husband cheats on his wife because she refuses to shave her pubic area, creating a simultaneously hilarious yet serious dramatic situation.
According to Cohen, the transition from being on stage to directing the show is a step up by a large order of magnitude.
“I think the change from going from actor to director is like going from being a piece of glass to a whole mosaic,” Cohen said.
Melanie Ho ’18, a co-producer of the play, emphasized how ticket sales will be donated to Womenspace, a local organization dedicated to preventing domestic and sexual violence.
“All the money we raised will be donated to Womenspace, which is another reason to get your ticket and come to the show!” Ho said.
In addition to the show’s charitable mission, SHARE peers will host a Q&A session after the show ends. In between monologues, statistics from the 2015 “We Speak” survey on sexual assault at Princeton will be displayed on a screen.
“This way, the audience is not just charged to learn about the female experience in theory, but on more immediate, sobering terms,” Cohen said.
With passionate directors and producers, a diverse cast on stage, special guests appearing each night, SHARE peers providing more information and hopefully a great turnout in the audience, “The Vagina Monologues” is aimed at stimulating conversation about feminism and gender equality on campus.“You will laugh, you will love our characters, and you will learn about the simultaneity of womanhood,” Cohen said.