Eve Ensler’s The Vagina Monologues, is a collection of short monologues depicting experiences from a diverse group of women, ranging in age from 6 to 72.
Ensler interviewed women to collect material for a variety of monologues. In one monologue, the speaker is worried about vaginas. Another discussed the hair “down there.” Ensler asked different women: What would your vagina wear? What would your vagina say? One monologue was based off of a 72-year-old woman that has never had an orgasm. Another was about transgender women, another was about genital mutilation. A monologue was dedicated to the Bosnian refugees in Europe that were raped by soldiers. A crowd favorite was about a dominatrix that loved to make women moan.
This year’s Vagina Monologues event was held in the University of Redlands’ Glenn Wallichs Theater, and organized by the Associate Dean for Campus Diversity and Inclusion, Leela MadhavaRau, in conjunction with two student directors, juniors Jennifer Michaels and Julie Donohue.
The University of Redlands has put on the Vagina Monologues annually for 17 years, according to MadhavaRau. This year’s was performed on Feb. 10 and 11.
“I make certain that the University is registered for The Vagina Monologues each year and assist the director(s) with behind the scenes logistics,” MadhavaRau said.
Regarding the importance of the Monologues being performed annually, MadhavaRau said, “This is an activist production, empowering both for performers and the audience. Some will perform and attend annually but many are new to the production each year.”
“You are taking action and I think that’s one of the most important aspects of the Vagina Monologues, whether you are in the audience or on stage. You are an activist,” Michaels said.
“Not only do our proceeds go to San Bernardino Sexual Assault Services each year, but it also helps raise a campus-wide awareness around women’s issues,” Donohue added.
In efforts to make the Monologues more inclusive, this year they were performed in both English and Spanish.
“We always try to involve a diverse group of performers, from girls in sororities to members of the Johnston community, to gain as much awareness and involve as many people as possible,” Donohue said in regards to inclusivity.
As for future changes, Donohue would like to see even more inclusion.
“My hope for the future is for the performance to become even more diverse,” she said. “Some people expressed interest in doing the monologues next year in ASL, and I think that this would diversify the show even more. I think it would also be great to see more University faculty and staff performing. This year, we had Leela MadhavaRau and MG Maloney [the Johnston Assistant Director] perform, and I think that they bring a special quality to the show.”
MadhavaRau and Donohue both agreed that being an actress is not a requirement to perform and further, that participating brings about a sense of empowerment.
“Performing in the monologues was really empowering,” Donohue said. “I hadn’t been on a stage since a mandatory fifth grade play, and I never thought that I would be again, but [I love] the way that Eve Ensler designed the monologues as women telling other women’s stories, not as acting.”
“I have been reading the Spotlight Monologue [a call for women to unite] for the past few years as this is the one new piece Eve writes annually,” MadhavaRau said. “This year’s was particularly powerful and it was affirming to hear members of the audience snapping and agreeing to particular lines. I am no actor, but I love to read pieces aloud.”
The Vagina Monologues brings women together in order to feel empowered and provide a sense of unity. Donohue said, “The other performers were all very supportive as well, it felt like a community in the dressing room.”
“I appreciate everyone who came, laughed, cried, and danced for the movement. All vaginas should be happy,” Michaels professed.
photos contributed by Redlands Bulldog photographer, Ben Fortuin