February 20 and 21 marked SLU’s Fifth annual performance of the Vagina Monologues. Held at the Sheldon Concert Hall, the performance is hosted every year by SLU’S own UNA. UNA is a student run organization that functions as SLU’s “feminist voice” on campus.
The Vagina Monologues is an episodic play written and originally performed by Eve Ensler in 1996. Eve Ensler interviewed over 200 women and collected their stories about their vaginal experiences and crafted them into a play. The episodes work to display different female experiences with themes touch on sex, love, rape, menstruation, birth, masturbation, etc. As has come to be tradition the play is performed by various female/ transgender actors to further personalize each story told. Titles of the monologues include, “I Was There in The Room,” a piece on the beauty of birth and the powerful capabilities of the vagina, “My Angry Vagina,” an explosive display of outrage at the injustices surrounding vaginas and a crowd favorite, “The Woman Who Loved to Make Vaginas Happy,” a tale of how a woman found herself in pleasuring others. The different pieces work together to not only empower women through their own sexuality but to also dispel myths, break the vocal taboo and give women a platform to tell their personal stories.
The event also functions as a fundraiser for the V Day campaign, a global non-profit movement that raises money for women’s anti violence groups. Every year many groups put on the vagina monologues and through ticket sales and donations raise money to help women everywhere. This year SLU’s collected donations went towards Karen House as well as the V Day campaign.
This year’s performance was, as always, excellent. Though one is able to see the performance online or read them in text there is nothing like seeing it live. The actors filled the stage donned in their black with accented colors of purples, pinks and reds. They sat comfortably on couches, chairs, stools and on the stage floor itself making the Sheldon Hall feel intimate and relaxed. As each person stood to give their monologue there were laughs, deep silences and even a moment of uproarious chanting.
An exemplary performance was given by Tasha Massman as she performed, “And Then We Were Jumping,” one of this year’s spotlight pieces. The complex piece is written through stream of consciousness as it tells of a young woman’s past experience of sexual abuse from her father and her coming to terms with abuse. Her strong ability to show power not only in the volume of her voice but also through the movements of her body brought her piece to nearly an obscene reality.
“I always dreamed of submitting to SLU Monologues but had difficulty even making it to the shows. I wanted a new experience. Something I had never done before,” said senior Eleanor Humphrey who performed “The Vagina Workshop,” a piece about discovering one’s own vagina. “The Vagina Monologues are super important to students to know we have a presence of liberal talk and a place for women’s stories to be heard in a broken bones kind of way. I feel there isn’t another platform, besides SLUMons, that is unapologetic.
SLU monologues is becoming a long tradition of self-expression, self-love and self-exploration. Amid controversy over the current practices of the author, the pieces concentration on vaginal mutilation, rape and exclusion of the trans community, the pieces still stand as something beautiful and unique. “The monologues show a distinct moment in feminist history that is valuable, however, we must all remember that feminism has since grown,” said Humphrey.