The Vagina Monologues

Last week, an ensemble cast and crew made up of Carnegie Mellon students and faculty put on The Vagina Monologues, an award–winning play that showcases the vagina — and all the pleasure and pain that come with having one — through a series of short dialogues. Each of the 16 monologues was performed by either the ensemble cast or a single actor, usually seated in a couch or chair. A total of 18 Carnegie Mellon women were involved with the production of the show, ranging from first-years all the way to the associate dean at the Heinz School of Public Policy and Management.

The Vagina Monologues was first written by Eve Ensler and performed in 1996 as a solo act. It has since evolved into a worldwide stage show often performed by celebrities. The play has been performed annually at Carnegie Mellon since 2003 and was also performed on Valentine’s Day at the University of Pittsburgh.

As expected, the play showed no beating around the bush in presenting its message from the start. The show began with a short introduction, during which the actors told several euphemisms for the vagina, to an audience that was surprisingly evenly split among males and females. Basically, if you’ve ever referred to your vagina, or someone else’s vagina, as anything other than “vagina,” then there’s about a 99.9 percent chance it was uttered during this monologue.

Following the introduction, a deeply moving monologue entitled “Hair” was performed, detailing a woman’s struggle to cope with her husband’s desire to shave her vagina, even though it causes her great pain and discomfort. The audience is able to truly connect with and feel sorry for the woman, despite the fact that this is a subject usually kept within private conversations. Opening with this particular monologue definitely set the tone that the play was not just a happy-go-lucky gigglefest about vaginas. The Vagina Monologues was designed to help women feel a greater sense of pride in themselves and their bodies, while educating both sexes about the vagina and what it means to have one.

The next skit featured an ensemble of women sitting across from each other in a semicircle, each giving answers to two questions that Ensler asked in interviews with actual women, which she used to gain material for the monologues. The questions in this particular monologue were, “If your vagina could speak, what would it say?” and “What would it wear?” Various answers gained some laughs from the audiences, including that a vagina would say “slow down” and would wear sequins.

For the most part, the play alternated loose, comical monologues with the more serious and dramatic ones, including a heartbreaking dialogue about vaginal mutilation (“My Vagina was my Village”) and general violence toward women (“A Memory of Her Face”), both key themes of the V-Day movement.

The Vagina Monologues is the cornerstone of the V-Day movement, which has taken place around Valentine’s Day every year since 1998. Founded by Eve Ensler, V-Day itself is a non-profit charity that has raised over $50 million to help end violence against women. It raises awareness and money through benefit productions such as The Vagina Monologues.

H&SS first-year Aliesha Jones, who performed during “A Memory of Her Face,” had not heard much about V-Day before The Vagina Monologues.

“I became very interested in the cause after a friend sent me an e-mail about it,” said Jones. “I had not participated in any other V-Day events, but anything that comes up in the future will definitely be of interest to me.”

The second to last monologue left a lasting impression on the audience. The organizer of V-Day, Sarah P. Amador, performed “The Woman Who Loved to Make Vaginas Happy,” in which a lesbian dominatrix discusses her career and her love of giving women pleasure. Near the end of her monologue, the entire cast entered the stage and gave vocal demonstrations of a wide variety of the moans the dominatrix has heard during her illustrious career, including fan favorites the “Black moan” and the “Jewish moan,” with the monologue literally climaxing in a “triple orgasm” moan.

Amador commented on the importance of showing The Vagina Monologues at Carnegie Mellon. “Well, I think it raises awareness to a variety of issues that affect women, and therefore I think it’s a show all women should see.”

Fellow performer and Heinz School first-year graduate student in arts management Jennifer Clarke agreed.

“When I first saw the show, it really made me feel empowered and enlightened and I wanted to be a part of that,” she said. “There was a real sense of camaraderie and purpose, especially given the charitable nature of V-Day. Doing the show as so much fun, we had a great cast.”