Feminist play shares the untold stories of diverse women
THE SANTA CLARA
April 7, 2016
“Now if you all turn to the back of your tickets, I’m going to read a disclaimer,” senior co-director Maura Bonini said before reading off a university mandated disclaimer in a mocking, affected voice about how the university does not necessarily condone the message of the show.
The chuckle-prompting preface set the tone for the type of exaggerated, self-aware humor in the myriad stories to be told, but it also gave a glimpse of the obstacles that happen behind the scenes.
“It’s discouraging when you’re trying to spread a good message about protecting women and striving towards equality, then be put down by the institution that is telling you to speak up and be diverse,” said senior co-director Lyndsey Brown.
In the past, the university had reservations about the monologues being performed on campus. The show acts as a time capsule, preserving women’s stories and experiences since 1996, when Eve Ensler first debuted her show in the form of monologues inspired by her interviews with other women. Even though the show was brought back to campus in 2010, the cast and crew behind the Monologues still have to jump through more hoops than most clubs do.
However, the more the university relaxes restrictions, the stronger the show becomes. This year, more women than ever auditioned to be a part of the show that raised a record $3,500 for Homesafe, a local charity for women affected by domestic violence.
“The Vagina Monologues always brings up these issues surrounding college culture and brings up a new perspective that isn’t often heard surrounding these issues,” Brown said. “Creating a platform for dialogue around these issues with a diverse group of women who all have an opinion about it is one of its most important roles.”
The title itself exemplifies the controversy surrounding the show. It’s a jarring phrase to put on a poster—but it’s supposed to be. The content of the show is meant to create a sense of uneasiness and make audiences question their own stances on issues such as rape and slut shaming. The play may have its moments of rough language or outdated understandings of feminism, but disagreeing with the show is part of the experience too.
One hotly debated skit centers around the admittedly “politically incorrect salvation” of an underage woman’s sexual identity through a relationship with a much older woman.
“In a sense, it’s glorifying statutory rape and that was really hard for me,” Bonini said. “(But) it doesn’t matter if we agree with these pieces or if we don’t, these are women’s stories which automatically makes them valid. The fact that I disagree with something they’re saying is irrelevant because this is how this woman felt in that moment.”
Since discomfort is an intrinsic part of the Monologues, creating an environment where it was okay to have strong opinions was key to the process. The directors placed an emphasis on telling stories of the women in the monologue as authentically and honestly as possible. The cast worked hard to match the performers with the right role and make sure that there was some aspect of the monologue they could relate to.
“I don’t remember if my first year if I identified as a feminist, but now I identify very strongly,” Bonini said. “I think the Vagina Monologues has given me a voice to express those views and those opinions. It also has made me more confident in myself as a woman and let me define what that means.”
The production relentlessly reminds you of the circumstances that lead to its necessity— of the way women are still being abused and treated like second-class citizens. Skeptics don’t have to look much further than what’s happening with Ke$ha’s legal battle to see that women and women’s voices are still mistreated and undervalued.
The increasing interest in the production shows that there’s a need for an accessible, open-minded avenue for discussion on campus.
The Vagina Monologues are entertaining and funny in a way that is usually reserved for male comedians, but the occasionally crass humor doesn’t aim just for shock value, but rather to unearth rarely spoken personal truths.
“We understand it’s a Catholic institution and that not everyone will agree with the subjects in the show but for the people who think it’s going against any religion of any kind, it’s missing the point of the Vagina Monologues,” Brown said. “Thousands of women were interviewed and they were all of different demographics, but they choose to be involved in this process because they believed in it. And we believe in it too.”
Contact Perla Luna at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (408) 554-4852.