Premiering in 1996, Eve Ensler’s award-winning play The Vagina Monologues has long been hailed as a celebration of womanhood and a rallying cry to end violence against women. The play is entirely based on numerous interviews the author conducted with women about their vaginas, sex lives, and other related topics. On Feb. 27th, a group of Radford University students premiered their own take on the iconic play. This performance of the play was directed by Dr. David Beach, an Associate Professor of English at Radford.
To put it simply, this play is all about vaginas, the seemingly strange female organ, and why they are so important—yet so undiscussed—in polite and socially acceptable conversations. The play jumps right into a discussion about how weird the mere word vagina sounds and it continues from there. What makes the play so interesting is that it does not focus on the experiences of a single group of women; rather, it makes a conscious and deliberate effort to include the experiences of all women.
The Vagina Monologues does mention rape and other sensitive subjects, but before the play begins the audience is made aware of the presence of counselors, who have graciously been provided in the event that an audience member is triggered by any of the content discussed onstage. While this is both a fitting and practical gesture, I was still moved by it. I thought this was a wonderful thing to provide for the audience because it tells rape and sexual abuse survivors that they belong in the audience, despite the trauma they’ve experienced. It tells them that they have a right to celebrate their vaginas, too.
Following the theme of inclusivity, the play also included a monolog written from the perspective of a trans woman. While this monolog can be seen as highly controversial, it is necessary for the brand of feminism within the play to be intersectional. Moreover, it raises transgender awareness towards audience members who would otherwise be uneducated.
The actresses who starred in The Vagina Monologues performed the play with passion and vitality. The monologists were approachable, yet powerful. Every word was spoken as if each individual monologist had firsthand undergone the experience she was recounting. While the text of the play itself is important, the performances can make or break the play. All the women involved in reciting the monologs made this play a masterpiece and gave this feminist classic new life through their powerful, empathy-inducing execution of the play.
By the end of the play, the word “vagina” seems commonplace in one’s vocabulary. It is no longer a scary, inappropriate, or taboo word. It becomes normal—and so do one’s attitudes towards it. And in my case, I couldn’t help but marvel with pride as I left the auditorium—pride with being a woman, pride for my very own vagina.