By: Paola Aguilar
When I first went to see The Vagina Monologues, I had no idea what to expect. I should not have been surprised to find that it was a collection of monologues about vaginas. The Vagina Monologues was first written in 1994 by Eve Ensler and is based on dozens of interviews. The play addresses issues with sexuality, rape, and violence against women. What is so powerful about TVM is not only the array of topics which are openly addressed, but the contributions the production makes to the V-Day campaign. The movement was established on Valentine’s Day in 1998 in New York City. The mission of V-Day is to end violence to women and girls around the world. As part of V-Day, proceeds from The Vagina Monologues are directed to local organizations that work to end violence against women and girls. Here in Moscow, the production of TVM benefits Alternatives to Violence of the Palouse.
When I first watched The Vagina Monologues last spring, I was extremely uncomfortable. I was surprised at my discomfort because I have always prided myself on being an open minded feminist but immediately felt a sense of discomfort having to sit in a packed theater listening to women talk about vaginas. However, when I left the show and sat down with my friends, we talked about how much more we need to talk about vaginas. My friends and I talked about our realization of how uncomfortable we were at the idea of talking about our own bodies in a sexual way and how difficult it was to hear the stories of women that had endured assault. It was a dialogue that carried on into the privilege of where we have grown up and while we do experience oppression because of our gender in the United States, it is nowhere near the violence and oppression that women in different parts of the world experience. Watching the production of TVM motivated conversations about the female body that my friends and I had never had before. In addition, watching this play created a safe space to discuss gender issues.
In the spring of 2016, a cast of former inmates and cast members from Orange Is The New Black put on productions of The Vagina Monologues to various all-female prisons and at least one all-male prison. For the women in the all-female prisons, TVM was an empowering way for them to reclaim their own bodies and to be able to see hope of a life outside of prison, especially by seeing former inmates performing for them. Thinking of themselves as sexual beings again allowed the women to think of themselves as more than inmates and about something other than being incarcerated.
In the all-male prison, the men talked about how much easier it was to talk about vaginas and women’s issues after seeing the production of TVM. The men spoke about how they felt much more comfortable talking about these things and also about how it opened them up to realizing some of the things women go through that they may not have thought about before. One of the inmates took advantage of the performance and asked the performers about how to start a conversation with his 4-year old daughter.
Initially, The Vagina Monologues seems taboo because of the name. However, when you look at the history of the production and its impact on local communities regardless of the gender of the audience members, it is easy to see why this production continues to be a valuable asset to the communities in which it is performed. With both the male and female inmates, the performances of TVM gave them an outlet during their time as inmates.
Prior to having viewed TVM and knowing what it was about, the idea of auditioning for the show seemed out of the question because I thought that I would need an immense amount of theater experience to do so. Now that I have seen the production and have seen even just a small amount of the impact that TVM has on the audience, I am looking forward to involving myself in one way or another in the production this year. While I may not have any theater experience, I do have a passion for women’s issues and I know that if I take part in the local production of the Vagina Monologues, I will be able to be a part of the V-Day movement to end violence against girls and women and more than anything, I will be a part of a production that impacts it’s audiences in innumerable positive ways.
If you would like to join, auditions will be held at the Arena Theater in Shoup Hall on Friday, October 21st from 5pm – 7pm and on Saturday, October 22nd from 10am – 12pm. Cold reads will be provided, no prior experience is required and all members of the community are welcome to audition.