Arts & Culture

The comedy, drama, passion of the vagina



Vagina.

Interested? That’s exactly what the cast and crew of this year’s production of “The Vagina Monologues” is hoping for. This Friday, Saturday and Sunday, 25 women will take the stage to shriek, laugh, cry and wonder about vaginas and the issues surrounding them.

“I love the idea of using the word ‘vagina’ so publicly. I am astounded that this word still brings about such discomfort and disgust … it isn’t a dirty word,” said Jessica Gilbertson, co-director of the production and the advocacy services program coordinator for Sexual Assault Support Services.

The award-winning “Vagina Monologues,” written by Eve Ensler in 1996 and based on interviews she conducted with 200 different women, is performed internationally each year and features monologues on subjects varying from masturbation to mutilation.

This weekend’s play will include 18 different monologues performed by an all-female cast and boasts four new monologues that were not included in last year’s line-up, including one about teenage sex slaves in the Democratic Republic of Congo. This is the second year that SASS has directed and organized the play as a fundraiser and kick-off event for National Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

From lines like, “She transformed my sorry-ass coochi snorcher and raised it into a kind of heaven,” to “My vagina’s not going away. It’s pissed off and it’s staying right here,” the play promises to be a blend of beauty, hilarity and sorrow.

The women involved with the play hope that the performances will not only entertain — Ensler’s work is known for its masterful combination of emotion and wit — but also inform and empower the audience.

“I want (the play) to create awareness in our community that sexual violence affects us all and that we all have to play a part in ending it,” Gilbertson said, adding, “I also want audiences to see the celebration of survival, the celebration of what it means to be a woman in this world.”

Kendell Tylee, a senior international studies and journalism major, is performing in the show for the first time this year with a monologue called “My Angry Vagina.” She is performing because of a realization she had two years ago as an audience member of “The Vagina Monologues.”

“I knew that I was not embracing my gender in the way I should have in my everyday life and at work,” Tylee said. “I mean, at the time I was an RA in UO Housing, I was the ASUO Elections Coordinator and I was working for UO Football … In my professional life, I had to act asexually to be taken seriously in a position of leadership. Even though we are the numerical majority, I see this with women all over campus and all over the world, being directly and indirectly forced to do the same thing and act in this narrow, confining manner.”

Lindsay Selser, co-director of the show and last year’s performer of “My Angry Vagina,” agreed that the show can change the way people understand women’s issues. She has performed in or directed the show since 2005 and said the experience has changed her.

“This show has helped me become the woman I am today. I learned how to become an advocate against sexual violence … Every year it renews my passion for this work and gives me the boost to continue with my volunteer work,” she said.

Gilbertson, Selser and Tylee hope that the show will get people actively thinking about and engaging in ways to stop sexual violence — just as the show did for them.

“Survivors of sexual assault and abuse are all ages, races, ethnicities, classes, gender identities, sexual orientations, levels of disability, religions. I want audiences to see that sexual violence affects all of us,” Gilbertson said.

But there are other reasons to attend the play, as well: “People always love the moaning,”
Gilbertson said.

Funds raised from the play will go to SASS to provide assistance and support to Lane County survivors of sexual assault and abuse.

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