17th University production of The Vagina Monologues continues tradition of expression on campus
From interpretive dances to think pieces to social experiments, the annual on-campus performances of Eve Ensler’s Vagina Monologues has always generated plentiful feedback from University students. The episodic play, which consists of an unfixed number of monologues performed by an unfixed number of women, was first performed in 1996 at the HERE Arts Center in New York City. It made its way to the the University in 2001.
The content of these monologues - which focuses on women’s experiences and relationships with their bodies — has always been controversial. Nevertheless, this year’s seventeenth consecutive performance of the play at the University evidences that it has indeed stood the test of time.
Romie Desrogène ‘17, one of this year’s show's co-directors, who first heard about the Vagina Monologues when she was 11 years old, said that the play’s “radical” content had always fascinated her.
“I knew it [the play] was about vaginas and the fact that it was played in Haiti — a place where they were even more of a taboo — made the play seem even more radical to me. I could not wait to grow up and be part in of it, even though I had not even seen the play yet," Desrogène said. "You can say I was pretty psyched to be in [the play] freshman and junior year, and then directing it this year after a seven-year wait."
Desrogène explained that she learned about the history of the Monologues as a freshman. She was in the production her freshman and sophomore years. She has also acted in productions of "I Was There In The Room" and "My Vagina Was My Village."
"I knew that [the play] was a feminist piece and that of course it had to do with vaginas," she said. "I knew it was blunt and graphic and honest. I read the script and found out that it was about many other things including womanhood, motherhood, growing up, joy, healing, and self-discovery."
Desrogène explained that she believes the play’s enduring resonance might be due to its adaptability as a work of art. She explained that she saw the Haitian Creole/French Version of the play that was directed by her first theater mentor in October, just before the University group started with auditioning and rehearsing. According to Desrogène, this experience impacted her creative choices with this year's Princeton productive of the Monologues. She also noted that past directors' use of current “Princeton-specific facts” helped the play stay interesting to a 2017 audience.
Desrogène's co-director, Nicole Acheampong ‘17, echoed this sentiment, explaining that past University productions of the Vagina Monologues have impacted both her own performances as an actress and her artistic decisions as a director.
Acheampong noted her and Desrogène’s choices differed from other directors.
“One year it [the play] was performed in a rather minimalist way, in the Forbes Blackbox, with a red cushion as the main prop for all the pieces," she said. "While Romie and I opted for a more detailed set, I think that shared first performance of the show was still a great influence in our directorial choices."
Acheampong said she considers the power of the show to be grounded not in the ways it shocks, nor in its potential to be grand and hugely performative, but in the way each monologue is intimate and personal. She noted that the show has remained relevant with women on campus because of its adaptability.
Indeed, the show's intimate nature has manifested itself in ripple effects the Monologues has had on the wider University community. For example, the Vagina Monologues has inspired University students to explore the play through dance. This year, February 13 and 14, Madeleine Planeix-Crocker, ‘17, directed "Vagina," in which she adapts the Monologues into a multimedia combination of dance and theater with the mission of exploring female identity in as many ways as possible.
Eve Ensler’s The Vagina Monologues is based on her interviews with 200 women. The monologues are individual stories whose only uniting theme is that they concern women’s experiences with and relations to their vaginas. Ensler’s play is “both a celebration of women’s sexuality and a condemnation of its violation.”
The Vagina Monologues showed in Theatre Intime, a small theater made for an intimate experience. The performance took place on Thursday, February 16 at 7 p.m., Friday, February 16 at 7 and 9:30 p.m., and Saturday, February 18 at 7 p.m.
The performance included several of Ensler’s monologues — typically performed solo, sometimes involving two or three actresses at a time — including “My Angry Vagina,” “The Woman Who Loved to Make Vaginas Happy,” “I Was There in the Room,” “Because He Liked to Look At It,” and “My Vagina Was My Village.”
All ticket sale proceeds went to Womanspace, a New Jersey nonprofit dedicated to protecting women from domestic and sexual violence.