Continuing the conversation of ‘The Vagina Monologues’

The University Women’s Centre has been putting on an annual production of The Vagina Monologues for nearly 20 years. (Jerry-Faye Flatt/AQ)

If your vagina could talk, what would it say?

Maybe it would say, “slow down,” or “words that begin with v and t, like turtle and violins.”

Those were a few of the responses that came from cast members in the annual University Women’s Centre production of The Vagina Monologues last week at Marshal d’Avray Hall. Director Abbey MacLean said although the production was written in the ’90s, it’s still relevant today.

“When it first came on the stage, it shattered taboos about sharing these untold stories of women in 1994. But now, it’s sort of works as a reminder about what’s going on globally,” said MacLean.

The Women’s Centre has put on the production for approximately 20 years. This was the first year all of the proceeds went entirely to a local organization, said MacLean. In previous years, half of the donations would go to V-Day, a global movement which aims to end violence against women and girls, and the other half would go to a non-profit of the organizers’ choice. MacLean said all of the proceeds this year went to Sexual Violence New Brunswick. They raised $570.

The Vagina Monologues is an episodic play written by American playwright Eve Ensler. It’s been performed globally since its New York premiere in 1996. In a Guardian article, Ensler wrote she was inspired to write the play because of the various vagina-related stories she discussed with her friends. Seeing the potential for a play, she spoke with “hundreds of women of all ages and races,” and “wrote a series of fictional monologues” inspired by what she heard.

This year, students from St. Thomas University and the University of New Brunswick participated in The Vagina Monologues, as well as some faculty members and people from the broader community.

MacLean said the performance of The Vagina Monologues is updated every year. This year, one of the monologues they recited was “My Vagina was a Village,” dedicated to the women of Bosnia.

“It’s a very intense monologue about rape and abuse. It’s important to continue to have these conversations, even though they are uncomfortable and make people not want to talk about them, but violence happens every day to women and girls.”

The cast’s performance of The Vagina Monologues was charismatic, playful and filled with energy. (Jerry-Faye Flatt/AQ)

Many of the monologues explored intense, sad and serious topics like female genitalia mutilation, rape and abuse.

One monologue was called “They Beat the Girl out of my Boy … Or so They Tried.” It was a group performance from five cast members who spoke about the struggles growing up with an assigned male gender, but knowing they are female.

“They assigned me a sex the day I was born,” reads the monologue. “It’s as random as being adopted or a being assigned a hotel room on the 30th floor. It has nothing to do with who you are, or your fear of heights. But in spite of the apparatus I was forced to carry around I always knew I was a girl.”

MacLean said they decided perform the monologue as a group because it represented a unified voice, like Ensler’s monologues essentially do, because they were created from many people’s stories.

The play was also filled with many positive and comedic topics like having to look at your own vagina, letting hair grow on vaginas, squirting, reclaiming the word c*nt and falling in love with women for the first time.

The cast’s performance of The Vagina Monologues was charismatic, playful and filled with energy. It was apparent all the actors were passionate about the subject matter through their body language and emotion-filled voices.

MacLean said it’s important to put on this production every year.

“It’s one of the few activist, entertainment-type things,” she said.

“It continues the conversation in a radical way that doesn’t really have a stage anymore.”