By Allison Jarvis Contributing Writer
The Vagina Monologues are back and the cast has worked hard to deliver this year’s performance with strength, power and hope for their fellow classmates.
This performance includes a series of monologues about sexual events and body acceptance delivered from the viewpoints of women of varying ages, backgrounds, and races. It has received criticism in the past for being offensive, but others find the show to be empowering and inspiring.
“The ultimate goal we have with the Vagina Monologues is to spread knowledge on women’s health, sexuality, and difficult topics like rape and assault,” said McCulloch. “We want to end the stigma surrounding the woman’s body, and we want others to be more comfortable talking about their struggles. We want people to talk about this stuff regularly.”
Because of the casts passion to fulfill their goal, the emotion needed to significantly illustrate the monologues is already present. Mary Ellms, one of the directors, said, “This year, we haven’t had to do much to help the actors access the emotions behind the pieces with the #metoo movement and other recent events around sexual assault, sexuality, gender identity, and feminism, the actors are already understanding these monologues in ways that I didn’t as a UMF student a little more than a decade ago.”
With only a month to rehearse, the cast did not waste a minute: “We have such a short time to prepare for the show, like three or four weeks,” said cast member Pearl Wilson, during an email interview. “A lot of the work we do is in memorization and being able to tell the story of our monologue.”
The cast begins memorizing their monologues early on, since “each rehearsal involves at least one run-through of the show or a run-through of each person’s monologue,” said cast member Eila McCulloch, “There’s a lot of work and effort that goes into each one.”
“I spend a lot of time with the script,” said Ellms, one of the directors. “I read and reread each monologue dozens of times and build an image in my head of what I’d like the overall picture to be for that monologue.” Ellms admitted, though, that sometimes this image will change during the rehearsal process due to the ideas presented by her co-director, Pickering, or by the other performers.
Ellms is not the only person who presents a goal for each monologue. “For me, it’s about opening conversation,” said cast member Bethany Wicks. “It’s about not being afraid to talk about vaginas or even just saying the word.” Wicks sentimentiments reveal the casts overall goal for the production.
The monologues cover some sensitive topics that might be triggering to some people. A few describe harrowing tales of sexual assault in strong detail. “Some of these monologues are really hard to process,” said McCulloch, “luckily for me, I have a more humorous monologue this year. But even listening to some of the others is difficult. One of Jurnee’s [Vagina Monologues cast member] lines makes me tear up every single time she says it.”
According to Ellms, though the monologues “can be triggering,” they are also necessary. Ellms recalled a conversation that the cast had during a rehearsal about how audience members will most likely be able to connect at least one line of the performance, maybe even an entire monologue, to their own lives: “If that’s really true,” said Ellms, “then we have to tell these stories for the people who are living similar experiences but who can’t tell their own stories yet. These monologues allow a lot of people to feel ‘seen,’ even if they’re not ready to share their personal experiences.”
But despite the heavy-handed emotions, the directors and cast members were determined to deliver a message of empowerment and are hopeful that the audience will still be thinking about it after they leave. “I think the Vagina Monologues can make people uncomfortable just because people usually don’t talk or think about vaginas like that,” said Wilson. “I hope that people confront their discomfort or even become empowered to love their own vagina.”
One cast member recalls how the Vagina Monologues empowered her. “The first time I saw the Vagina Monologues, I was in the eighth grade and I had giant googly eyes the entire performance!” said Wilson. “It blew my little brain! The Vagina Monologues empowered me as a young woman so I am happy I get to be part of them now.”
If anyone wishes to participate in the Vagina Monologues, the show is performed once every year on campus. Contact Mary Ellms or Gavin Pickering for details.
By Darby Murnane Contributing Writer
The Vagina Monologues, written by Eve Ensler, were recently performed by the Campus Violence Prevention Coalition (CVPC) and the UMF Counseling Services at Emery Arts Center, co-directed by Mary Ellms, Gavin Pickering, and Riah Pic
The Vagina Monologues present various pieces on feminine identity and sexuality.
Premiering in the 1990’s, The Vagina Monologues explore the feminine identity and sexuality as well as the taboos surrounding them. The play is performed as part of the V-Day activist campaign, which fights violence against women.
While some monologues in the play have more comedic value such as one which discusses various types of moans and another which lists strange slang terms for the vagina, many of the monologues tackle difficult subjects like the struggles faced by the transgender community and the violent sexual assaults of Bosnian women.
Ellms and Pickering, both graduates of UMF, remember seeing the Monologues performed every spring during their time in college. When reflecting on her first time seeing the play, Ellms said, “I felt very uncomfortable the entire time,” as she had never heard women’s bodies being spoken about in such a blunt, bold manner. “And I think I was really culture shocked when I left. I just didn’t know what to do,” Ellms said.
Pickering felt equally as shocked upon seeing the show and recalled “taking a step back and having to reflect on sort of preconceived notions and privilege and just what we don’t think we don’t know.”
However, when approached by CVPC about putting on the show, they were eager to do so. For the directors, some of the shock-value has worn off and the material has begun to more natural.
Pickering, who has a history with theatre dealing with social issues, said, “I feel like we’re coming from the perspective of educators and that changes how we hear what we’re doing.”
“For me, The Vagina Monologues is about women empowering other people to be okay with who they are and to reclaim who they are,” Ellms said. She believes that this play is not just for women, but for people of all different gender identities. The play encourages people to be more open about their shared experiences and breaking the silence surrounding some of these experiences.
Pickering agreed with this idea and expressed his hopes for a diverse crowd as he believed it would help further the discussion of consent and sexual assault.
“I hope that a lot of men come to the show, young men come to the show to learn about the female experience, because it’s so important to hear the perspective,” Pickering said. “And that’s what I remember about seeing the Vagina Monologues is that sort of new heightened awareness of what the female experience really is, especially the fear and the risk involved in just living your daily life as a woman.”
Cast member Aurora Bartley, a third year English major, finds a sense of empowerment in her involvement with the play. “I thought it was very liberating because you know doing this production about vaginas feels really important to me especially in a time where all of these sexual assault allegations are coming out in the news and everything,” Bartley said.
Ellms hopes the audience finds that sense of empowerment too. “It’s really important for people to hear that vaginas are okay, and that it’s okay to have one, it’s okay to like them, it’s okay to talk about them and to ask questions about them,” she said. “It’s all okay, you don’t have to be afraid of it.”
By Olivia White Contributing Writer
UMF is showing its support for the #metoo movement by hosting “The Vagina Monologues,” a play by Eve Ensler based off of interviews from over 200 women speaking out about about sexual assault and abuse experiences in February.
People everywhere are voicing their views on sexual harassment and sexual assault through #metoo, a social media hashtag that opens a space for people to share their stories on being sexually harassed and/or assaulted.
Alyssa Leonard, a freshman at UMF, said she “can’t really relate to #metoo personally, but just knowing so many people that do makes me genuinely sick. No one should ever have to go through something like that.”
Other student’s views echo Leonard’s position, arguing that sexual assault is a horrible thing, or they avoided answering the saying they felt uncomfortable talking about the subject.
The students of UMF have expressed their views on campus awareness and precautions. Sophomore and Clefnote member, Vanessa Brown said that, “as cliché as it sounds, campus awareness is unity. Whether its physical, verbal, mental, emotional….unity is the strength in which all hopes and fears are destroyed.”
Brown also said the campus should be encouraging the students, “to create safe spaces, to incite discussions, to allow all stories be an important one.”
Some students on campus are not used to sexuality being so public and outspoken and it makes many uncomfortable. Others feel as though they cannot express their thoughts for fear they may have the “wrong” opinion in the minds of their peers.
When asked how she thought sexual assault could be prevented on campus, Leonard said “a good idea would be to have conversations. I know there’s something on campus happening called ‘The Vagina Monologues,’ where they are talking about sexual harassment.”
The cast for this year’s production are students from UMF, who will be under the direction of Gavin Pickering, a counselor here at UMF. The characters delivering monologues talk frankly about sexuality as a whole and women’s perceptions of their bodies. “The Vagina Monologues” will be held at the Emery Arts Center at 6 p.m. on February 23rd.
Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Services (SAPARS) along with Safe Voices are organizations that helps those who have experienced a form of sexual assault. If you need help please contact one of these organizations; SAPARS: 207-778-9522 or 1-800-871-7741, Safe Voices: 207-778-6107 or 1-800-559-2927, and/or Non-Crisis Peer to Peer Support: 1-866-771-9276.