Students to put new spin on 'Vagina Monologues'

Photo/Yosef Schaffel

Students during last years curtain call at the Vagina Monologues production

Upcoming presentations of "The Vagina Monologues" in the Shapiro Campus Center Theater aim to help Brandeis students become part of the international dialogue about empowering women and girls.

"The Vagina Monologues," by writer, performer and activist Eve Ensler, was first performed in 1994. Based on dozens of interviews Ensler conducted with women, the play addressed women's sexuality and instigated a new conversation about and with women. "The Vagina Monologues" ran off-Broadway for five years, then toured the United States. It has been translated into more than 48 languages and performed in more than 140 countries.

While many people have listened to the monologues previously, director Asa Bhuiyan '11 says that this year she wants to reinvent the performance. "I am... rearranging everything," she says. "The basic words are the same but the sound is different." Annual performances of the monologues began at Brandeis 10 years ago.

"The Vagina Monologues" performances are part of a weeklong awareness-raising campaign called Vagina Week, a series of events surrounding the date of the show. On Friday during "Rabb attack," the entire cast plays music, hands out fliers, and yells "Come to The Vagina Monologues," or just "vagina." On Tuesday, March 15, at 8 p.m. in Golding Auditorium, Megan Andelloux will give the annual orgasm workshop. Poet, musician and artist Shira Erlichman will read and perform in Golding Auditorium on Monday, March 14, at 9 p.m. All events are open to the student body.

Hosted by the Vagina Club, the performances raise money for efforts to end violence and increase solidarity among women. The Vagina Monologues performances are in the Shapiro Campus Center Theater on Friday, March 11, at 8 p.m.; Saturday, March 12, at 2 p.m.; and Sunday, March 13, at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. Tickets are $5 in advance for students, $7 for non-students at the door. The Boston Area Rape Crisis Center will receive 90 percent of the proceeds; 10 percent will go to the V-Day Haiti initiative.

In the on-campus production, Bhuiyan says that she "wants to surprise people. The girl who you think is invisible, or the girl who may not be funny, those are the women playing the outrageous parts. Everything is flipped. I try not to type cast, and instead select pieces that force the performers to step out of their comfort zone."

Bhuiyan, who has been part of "The Vagina Monologues" production here since her freshman year, splits some of the monologues in order to play with varying perspectives.

The theme of this years production is derived from one of the monologues - "The Vagina Workshop" - in which a woman describes her experiences with the intention of helping women feel comfortable with themselves and their vaginas. In this particular piece, Bhuiyan transforms an interior monologue into a dialogue in which three girls share the experiences of one woman, all with different tones and reactions. She also splits up other monologues, such as "Crooked Braid" and "I was there in the Room." She says that, "if you are an artist, you have to have screws loose in your head, and this allows me to re-conceptualize things that have been done one way for so long."

In directing the performers, Bhuiyan gave the women a chance to talk about what the pieces meant to them. One important factor, says Ashni Davé '12, the chief coordinator, is that "we don't have to cast theater majors." There are only two theater majors in this year's cast.

The director and coordinator are both dancers, and Bhuiyan says that "we think in terms of movement." She and Davé are moving away from the typical structure of past performances with women standing like statues with a bright light shining on them.

Davé says many audience members come with preconceived notions. "People ask are you going to dress up like angry feminist talking vaginas," she says, but the play's message is about female solidarity, and in the end, "we can see people responding to this."

In writing her director's note, Bhuiyan says that she had an epiphany: "We are women who are trying to find purpose in ourselves and our womanhood. College is a transitional moment, and the women we are playing are women who have lived their lives, and we are living now, we are finding meaning." Bhuiyan believes that the actors are able to learn more about themselves through this performance.

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