Screaming “cunt” at the top of your lungs in a public setting with several hundred other people only happens once a year, and it’s at “The Vagina Monologues.”
This year’s themes of race, ethnicity and culture hit on consistently prevalent and controversial topics. All walks of life pack a full house as the night unfolds in a thought-provoking, moving performance that is as heart-wrenching and heavy as it is hilarious.
“The Vagina Monologues” is a set of monologues and group pieces written by Eve Ensler in an effort to sustain a movement to stop violence against women and girls. Their objective is to raise money and awareness through a full production by a volunteer “cunt” community.
A group of approximately 40 women spend nine months prior to the production working together to learn from one another, all the while sharing their own experiences. While the monologues touch on a wide range of issues, this year’s theme speaks to a topic with which everyone can identify, a choice that “was very intentional,” said director Sarah Beth Alcabes.
This year’s concentration opened up the show to a wider audience. Two cast members, Pisacha Wichianchan and Shir Davidovicz, relate to how this show functions as a catalyst for discussion and how it intends to impart a broader message.
“‘The Vagina Monologues’ doesn’t seek to indoctrinate people about values, but rather the monologues seek to share an experience with people,” said Wichianchan. “In the beginning of the show, we tell the audience, ‘Even though this is my experience as an Indian, this doesn’t represent the whole Indianess of me,’ and that’s important to acknowledge that we don’t represent an entire race — just me.”
What the show does incredibly well is respond specifically to several societal condemnations or taboos by putting them in the limelight. For instance, a piece called “Hair” recognizes the stigma around pubic hair and then contests the act of shaving as a rejection of the true nature of the vagina.
There were original testimonies touching on what it means to wear a hijab and be liberated at the same time. Each piece offered insight into another aspect of humanity, not just womanhood.
“These are stories everyone can kind of connect to, even if you are not a woman,” Davidovicz said. “Male or female, everyone has had a moment when the way they look and their race or ethnicity has made them uncomfortable in a situation. A lot of people I know had families that immigrated here, and we talk about that in the show, and they can connect to it. They can feel empowered by the stories they are hearing even though they’re male.”
“The Vagina Monologues” did what it set out to do. “As much as the show seeks to appeal to women and identify with their unspoken issues, it also provides a means for beginning to understand women and works toward a world with more cunts and less violence,” said Wichianchan.
The most moving portion of the entire show was the end, when the production team asked the audience to break its silence and stand or signify whether its members had had experiences with sexual violence, know anyone who had and, finally, whether they pledge to do whatever it takes to stop it.
This was the pinnacle of watching and interacting — exposing the ways in which the audience identifies directly with the issues presented to them.
“It’s really powerful to be on stage, but I think it’s powerful to even be in the audience and to see, ‘Wow, there are a lot of people in this room that have been affected by this,’” Alcabes said.
A show meant to educate, entertain and appeal to the masses did just that. To be a vagina is to own it — and own it they did.