This year’s annual production of Eve Ensler’s play The Vagina Monologues, hosted by FUSE (Feminists United for Sexual Equality), coincided with the global “One Billion Rising” campaign started by V-Day, the organization and holiday created by Ensler to raise awareness for violence against women.
On V-Day, which occurs every Feb. 14, colleges and organizations around the world stage productions of the play as fundraisers for organizations that support women in need. The proceeds from the St. Mary’s production went to Walden Sierra, a “private, nonprofit counseling organization offering substance abuse, domestic violence, and child abuse counseling to residents of southern Maryland,” according to the organization’s website. The “V” in “V-Day” stands for “victory,” “violence,” and of course, “vagina.”
Sophomores Allegra Garrett and Olabisi “Labs” Fraser directed the 2013 staging of the play, which was held in St. Mary’s Hall on the evenings of V-Day (Thursday, Feb. 14) and Sunday, Feb. 17. “I performed in [The Vagina Monologues] last year,” said Garrett, “and I just thought it would be really fun to direct when the time came for FUSE to start production this year. We have 23 girls participating this year, and they’re all fabulous. I love all of them so much!”
In past years, St. Mary’s productions of The Vagina Monologues have been staged as “a meeting in a coffeehouse, a women’s bathroom, and a rally. This year, the play was staged as a meeting of a women’s therapy support group. We put a few spins on some of the monologues this year that should make it fun,” said Fraser.
The play is a series of monologues based on Ensler’s interviews with women of all ages, sexual orientations, and ethnicities. “The Vagina Monologues raises the awareness of the St. Mary’s campus community on issues like rape, sexism, female genital mutilation, war, homosexuality, and global feminist movements,” said sophomore Emma Kaufman, who performed a monologue on the nature of pubic hair. “This year’s production is so important—it is the 15th anniversary of the first performance of the monologues. In honor of celebrating this occasion, February 14 has been transformed into a day of activism, dancing, theater, and solidarity among all women who choose to participate.”
Sophomore Maggie Holzman performed one of the student-written spotlight monologues. “To go along with this year’s theme of ‘one billion rising,’ Allegra selected me and two other people to write and perform our own monologues with the theme ‘I am Rising.’ It’s very different, but I was honored to be asked [to perform the closing monologue].”
Erica Burns, a sophomore transwoman, provided an original perspective during her spotlight monologue. “Back in 2007, I first came upon the knowledge of the existence of The Vagina Monologues through coming upon an edition of it centered around transgender women, “she said. “And then, when I first came to St. Mary’s last spring as a transfer student and saw that this was a yearly thing here at this college, I realized it would soon enough be time for me to get involved. I serve to give a fresh voice to The Vagina Monologues by showing that you don’t have to have a vagina to be a woman.”
Given the female-centric nature of the play, it must be noted that The Vagina Monologues is also accessible to men. Daniel Harris, a junior, said, “I enjoyed the play’s blend of humor and seriousness while exploring the female perspective on gender equality.”
After the performance, a three-minute video produced by the One Billion Rising campaign was shown. The video featured women from all over the world literally rising, standing and pointing to the air, before bursting into a global dance against the abuse of women. It left the audience with an inspiring image that exemplifies what The Vagina Monologues is all about: making women their strongest, happiest selves.