In the ninth annual university production of The Vagina Monologues, 46 women took to the stage to raise money for The Advocacy Center, an Ithaca organization that provides services to victims of domestic violence and sexual abuse. Cornell’s production was one of over 3,000 events that were part of V-Day, an international movement to end violence against women by raising money through benefit productions of the show.
Although V-Day events took place in 1,150 colleges and communities in the U.S. and around the world, certain aspects of the production were unique to Cornell. The 20 monologues were split into 46 roles, and no students who auditioned were be turned away. Artistic director Lauren Beckles grad described the end result as “one wild storytelling thing. It’s like we’re sisters or really good friends after a wild night. One person starts, then another interrupts with some detail talking back and forth.” Another campus trademark was the inclusion of the remark “oh, oh, I should be studying right now, oh, I have a prelim tomorrow,” as the orgasmic moan of a college student.
Often the subject of controversy, the Monologues were in the news again in early February of this year after a complaint by a woman in Atlantic Beach, Florida led a club owner to change the sign outside of the theatre to “The Hoohaa Monologues.” The sign was later restored to “Vagina” after it was established that the rights to the play were only granted if the play was uncensored.
At Cornell, no similar challenges were made to the play. It has been performed annually since 1998, and over 2,500 people have attended a University production of the show.
Laura Weiss, the director of the Cornell Women’s Resource Center, describes the product as “quite beloved by the Cornell community,” adding that many people return to see it again and again.
The show changes every year, with the addition of what is known as the spotlight monologue. Author Eve Ensler writes a new monologue each year to highlight an issue facing women. This year’s spotlight was about women in conflict zones, reminding the audience that, “consequences remain after the war is no longer sexy. The work of restoration is not glamorous, and [women] pick up the pieces.”
Members of the production stressed that The Vagina Monologues is much more than just a theatrical production.
“It’s not about you onstage, it’s about how you feel, and why you’re doing it,” said Emily Glick ’07.
Executive producer Amanda Zongrone ’07 explained why The Vagina Monologues are important.
“One-fifth of women will be raped, women are still not equal as global citizens, and part of the reason why this still exists is that people don’t talk about it,” she said.
This year’s production was scheduled between V-Day and International Women’s Day, and included the addition of a third performance at Carl L. Becker House. Impressed by the performance she attended last year, House Dean Cindy Hazan invited the Monologue cast to do an in-house performance. Artistic director Lauren Beckles grad praised Hazan’s “warmth and kindness,” as well as her “dedication to public service, and vaginas.” Beckles hopes to make in-house performances a tradition.
The shows ended with standing ovations, and audience responses were positive.
“It takes an uncomfortable subject and makes it funny,” said Alyssa Figueroa ’10. “It’s overwhelming at first, but after the second monologue you’re used to it.”
Meaghann Lawson ’10 described the play as “about what it means to be a woman in today’s society, everything from domestic violence to the hilarity of getting your first period,” and added that “a lot of the topics, you can really relate to.”
“I’ve read The Vagina Monologues before,” said Heather Levy ’10, “and I’ve seen it on TV, but seeing it on stage, performed by friends at Cornell, makes the stories really come to life.”