Can you think of more than, say, five different names for the word vagina? The exceptional cast and crew of Emory’s production of Eve Ensler’s The Vagina Monologues certainly can. In this outrageous, touching and hilarious show of all women, vaginas got the attention and respect they deserved. With excellent acting and controversial monologues, important issues from rape to body acceptance were covered; however, under the flashy ruse of sexuality, the show was not simply about vaginas, but about the wants, needs and desires of women everywhere.
The Vagina Monologues is a collection of stories prompted by a series of interview questions. The monologues answered provocative questions like “What would your vagina wear?” or “Do you believe in your vagina?” Answers were often convoluted stories and silly yet poetic answers that were about more than simply the state of one’s vagina. This show sought to truly examine the give and take of female sexuality, dress it up and take it for a ride. The introduction by the entire cast displayed a wide range of body types, personality and ideas about sex. The cast had wonderful energy and chemistry as they stood up for the vagina.
Interspersed between the monologues were mentions and clips of women’s issues. The show did a wonderful job of raising awareness of issues from female genital mutilation to rape culture while putting on the show. These moments of advocacy, as well as the monologues themselves, achieved the show’s purpose of “social justice and theater,” as director Sasha Yasmin Freger said.
The first few monologues said a resounding “no” to body shaming, prompting women to take a look at their vaginas, find their, ahem, happy place and take control of their sexuality rather than depend on men. In her monologue “The Vagina Workshop,” the excellent and committed Lisa Eckman reveled in the opportunity to find her own pleasure and paid her vagina a bit of poetic justice proclaiming to the audience, “My vagina is a shell!” The monologues took a poignant turn, discussing rape victims in Bosnia and Kosovo. “My Vagina Was My Village” moved this reporter to tears as the actors Rebecca Di and Peggy Chu brilliantly exposed the heinous crimes committed against women during the genocide in these countries. Additionally, the rape and abuse of a little girl was performed in the monologue “The Little Coochie Snorcher That Could.”
Although the acting in this monologue was well done, I do question the coming of age portion, in which the speaker takes control of her body at 16 after being sexually seduced by an older woman and drinking with her. I’m not sure if two felonies are the best empowerment method for young girls who have been sexually abused, but the show went on, nonetheless.
The remaining monologues reclaimed once and for all control of female pleasure and sexuality for women themselves. In “Reclaiming C–t,” Monica Yang took the unseemly pejorative and tried it on for size. She toyed with the letters and the sounds with gusto and a smile, linking it with sensuality and excitement.In what was likely one of the more memorable performances (especially for my male companion, who shall remain nameless here lest his interest in feminist views be exposed), Malina Jones took charge of the stage and captured the audience in her monologue “The Woman who Loved to Make Vaginas Happy.”
Jones boldly took the stage as a dominatrix catering to females and informed the crowd of the various moans that arise from women during sex. Jones was creative and uninhibited, and the audience was quite responsive to her performance. The final monologue discussed the power of birth and the sheer physical capabilities of the vagina. As Khatdija Meghjani said, “The heart is capable of sacrifice … so is the vagina.”
While at times I feel the show conflated female personality and sexuality, I believe the ultimate goal was to reveal the heart of women. There were points in the show where women were equated with their vaginas, with lines like, “Your clitoris is the essence of you,” or when a lover told a woman, “I want to see you,” in reference to her vagina.
These are the ideas that women are working against. We are more than our bodies; we are complete packages of personality, sexuality, spirit and intellect. Additionally, I feel that the material could use an injection of men as partners, advocates and willing students of female pleasure.
Overall, Emory’s performance of The Vagina Monologues was absolutely excellent. The show ended with a poignant clip from the One Billion Rising Campaign, which seeks to end violence against women and girls.
The cast came together in solidarity for this cause, vowing to raise awareness and be a part of this campaign and also putting a higher purpose behind the show. By this time, I had realized that this show was about more than sexuality and, well, vaginas. The Vagina Monologues was about women and feminism.
— By Jordie Davies