September 23, 2020

‘Vagina Monologues’ share message of strength

Performers take a stand against the oppression of women. (Kim Iannarone / Staff Photographer)
Performers take a stand against the oppression of women. (Kim Iannarone / Staff Photographer)

By Heidi Cho
Arts & Entertainment Editor

V is not for Valentine. V is for vagina, violence and victory. V is for the play presented by Women In Learning and Leadership inspired by hundreds of interviews with women.

Kendall Hall Mainstage Theater hosted the College’s annual production of Eve Ensler’s “The Vagina Monologues” on Friday, Feb. 15.

“It’s all about breaking the silence,” said Samantha Franz, a director for the production and a junior communication studies and English double major.

The goal of many monologue events is to raise awareness for an issue — in this case, atrocities committed against women, according to Franz.

Franz hoped that “The Vagina Monologues” would spark conversation among audience members and encourage them to leave with a different perspective on feminism than when they entered the theater.

All proceeds from the event — from tickets to the chocolate vagina pops on sale at the show — were donated to WomanSpace, ProNica’s Acahault Women’s Clinic and the Frontline Resistors Fund.

In these ways, the play can help achieve the ultimate goal of the global V-Day movement: ending violence against women.

The monologues ranged from peppy, light and humorous to dark, serious and heart-breaking, leaving audience members reeling from the impassioned performances.

Nicole Zamlout, a freshman English major, made her performance upbeat. Zamlout told the audience “A Happy Fun Fact” — the clitoris has twice the number of nerves as the penis.

“Who needs a handgun when you have a semiautomatic?” Zamlout said with a smile.

Zamlout’s commentary rendered a round of applause, even a wolf whistle, as she left the stage.

Two acts later, Zamlout told the audience “A Not So Happy Fun Fact” — that more than 200 million girls and women have been subjected to female genital mutilation.

This, in contrast to her upbeat routine, left the audience silent.

As the play went on, performers sat down on the bleacher stands arranged in the back of the stage as they finished their acts. Even though most of the performances were solo acts, the group of onlookers gave a sense of solidarity and silent encouragement for acts that required emotional intensity and bravery.

One actress Sydney Blanchard, a freshman communication studies major, entered the stage decked in dominatrix black, portraying a female sex worker.

Blanchard made the most use of the stage, dropping down low one second and standing with her hands on her hips the next. She then began to act out the different kinds of moans her character has heard before, and the audience didn’t hold back their laughter, especially when she demonstrated the improvised “college moan.”

“I really should be studying,” Blanchard said. “I really should be studying. I’m going to miss meal equiv!”

The strong performances could be shocking and off-putting to the audience, but are necessary to illustrate what the danger that exists in the reality of women today.

“It was a heartfelt look at women and what they go through in our society,” said William Braberman, a junior physics major.

Fellow audience member Andrew Cenci, a sophomore elementary education and math double major, agreed.

“It was very powerful,” Cenci said. “It was very well performed. It left kind of a lasting impression to help stop violence against women.”

Kate Augustin, a sophomore elementary education and psychology double major, performed the piece that left the most impact on Cenci, “The Little Coochi Snorcher that Could.”

Augustin felt inspired to act in the annual production after she attended the monologues as an audience member during her freshman year.

“Just to know that this is what women have gone through and no one has stopped it, especially the violence to little girls, it (lit) a fire under me,” Augustin said.

Augustin felt satisfied to be a part of the production.

“It was such a learning and supportive experience,” Augustin said. “The directors are so kind-hearted, and they want you to succeed.”

It all clicked, when Franz, one of five directors of the play, watched from backstage as the door opened and all of the cast filed in on Thursday, Feb. 15, for dress rehearsal.

Franz’s voice swelled just thinking about the 500 hours she poured into the performance, along with all the work she and her peers have put into the production since auditions in November.

“I was sitting backstage the whole time going, ‘I hope they get it, I hope they get it,’ and they get it and it’s so good,” Franz said.

One monologue, titled “Six Year Old Girl,” was a back-and-forth between a six-year-old girl and an interviewer who asked the child to personify her vagina.

Both the interviewer and the little girl, portrayed by Gabbi Petrone, a freshman psychology major, asked and answered each question with perfect execution. Petrone accurately mimicked the confident, answers of the child without hesitation.

Alyssa Cosio, a sophomore communication studies major, took a moment to digest a question asked of her, “What would your vagina say?”

After a moment of thought, Cosio answered that her vagina would say, “Thank you. It feels good not to be alone.”


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