Kyle Kaplan ’15
What makes an annual performance different every year?
Particularly at Smith, one might assume that a show like The Vagina Monologues – which touches upon issues unique yet universal to the female experience – would attract the same audience year after year, one that consists of people already talking about the vagina using a political discourse.
“I don’t know if I agree with [the idea that the audience consists of only such people],” said Ashlynn August ’15. “Even if we all go to the same school, that doesn’t mean we all came from an environment where it was safe to talk about what it means to have a vagina and how that relates to the female experience. I think it’s a great time for first-year students, and if you’ve gone before, it won’t be the same because it’s always different actors performing the monologues.”
Many former and prospective audience members have also attested to the relevance of hosting an annual show that asks us to consider how anatomy influences our understanding of what it means to be a woman. According to August, who will be going to see The Vagina Monologues for the second time, the show “really touches on the fact that the female identity has more to do with an experience than an anatomy. A lot of colleges put on The Vagina Monologues every year, and I think the conversations we have about gender can be taken for granted at Smith.”
Hilarious and often heartbreaking, the stories showcased in The Vagina Monologues are far from outdated. Kyla Prior ’14, chair of Smith College V-Day (a movement started by Eve Ensler and a group of activists in which theater companies are allowed to stage productions if the proceeds go to local projects aimed at ending violence against women and girls) and director of this year’s Vagina Monologues, explained that all the stories in this episodic play “still ring true.”
“We hear about violence, acid burnings, honor killings, rape – but The Vagina Monologues takes these events and makes them personal; makes them about your mother, sister, aunt, niece, partner, wife, your daughter. They delve into intense topics, funny subjects, and even some subjects that people would prefer to be left unmentioned. Overall, it’s a great and evocative show,” said Prior.
Not to mention the show is emblematic of Smith as “a private college with a public conscience,” as Smith President Carol Christ once said. Although one of this year’s performers, Nic Laschever ’15, has observed that the costuming and set for the show seems to be the same as former productions, this year’s show is taking
place two days after Eve Ensler’s “global strike” against rape and battery, as part of her new campaign called One Billion Rising. “It’s based on the fact that one in three women will be raped or beaten during her lifetime,” said Prior. “This amounts to one million women violated.”
In addition to raising awareness, The Vagina Monologues’ admission fee will go toward a major fundraiser for Safe Passage Northampton, which is a shelter for survivors of domestic violence. The Vagina Monologues does more than entertain – it is a sex and body positive repertoire whose political underpinnings generate an important dialogue about what it means to be a woman all over the world.
The Vagina Monologues will take place on Feb. 16 at 8 p.m. in John M. Greene Hall. Tickets are $10 at the door.