The word echoes within Ryan Auditorium. As a woman delivers a monologue about the power of the slang word for vagina, five other women listen intently in the back. This clearly isn’t just another lecture or panel in Tech –- it’s The Vagina Monologues, put on by College Feminists this Sunday at 2 p.m., 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. While the show’s aim of teaching women to take pride in themselves is admirable, the end result of this production is just a little too awkward to entirely inspire women.
The Vagina Monologues, by Even Ensler, is an evolving show, with monologues being changed, replaced and added over the years. First produced in 1996, the show has since come to represent many different things. V-day, developed in part by Ensler, launched in 1998. According to its Web site, “V-Day is a global movement to stop violence against women and girls.” It is a day that is designed to take place instead of Valentine’s Day, and many colleges put on an annual production of Monologues; Northwestern has had an annual performance of the show since 2000. Each of the eight actresses in this production perform monologues that have been derived from hundreds of interviews with women of all ages –- which can be a little disconcerting when the monologue is centered on a six-year old girl.
Monologues, then, is more than just a show — it was written to celebrate the vagina and empower females. Yet it has received criticism from many different groups, claiming that it paints heterosexual relationships negatively and places too much emphasis on sex for empowerment.
Stand-outs in the Northwestern production include Weinberg junior Lynn Stransky, who seems genuinely pissed off about all the injustices wrought on her vagina. Stransky struts around the stage, throwing her arms up in exasperation and screaming to the audience about how her husband has mistreated her. Her monologues don’t seem like a cry from the feminist community, but like a real woman who was frustrated with her situation, and found a way to change it. Stranksy is, by far, the most realistic of all of the monologists in the show, seeming the most at-ease with what she is screaming about.
Communication sophomore Alyssa Ramos, who seems like the calm voice of reason in the show yet delivers some of its saddest lines, also makes a deep impression. While each of the other women in the show seem half-crazed with emotion about their vaginas, Ramos manages to just voice her character’s opinions, without giving them serious weight. She talks about mutilation and rape, but in a matter-of-fact way that, somehow, hits home more than any screaming or moaning could.
Director Grayson Vreeland, a Communication sophomore, does a good job making what could be extremely awkward sequences, like group moaning or the sex lives of senior citizens, palatable. She takes extremely delicate subject matter and attempts to make it an open dialogue between the actresses. The best moments of the show are when the entire cast collaborates, quietly whispering through a monologue together or screaming out slang words. In those moments, the entire cast seems to band together and have a higher purpose than just talking about vaginas.
Yet those same collaborations are also a little strange, like when Medill sophomore Jenna Troum triple-climaxes onstage, with the rest of the cast also moaning. Yes, the show is about the strength and glory of the vagina, but if given the choice of watching a fake orgasm onstage or somewhere else, I personally think I’d feel more comfortable just watching When Harry Met Sally in the privacy of my own room. But maybe that’s the point.
If you’re in the mood this weekend to learn a little bit more about whatever you choose to call female genitalia, head over to Tech. But don’t expect to just mindlessly watch a show and then go about your day; Monologues is the kind of show that aims to teach you something, and if you weren’t the type that wanted to know anything more about feminism, you probably weren’t considering going to the show anyway.