The Vagina Monologues
Staff Writer Maria Christine C. Castro Photographs Provided by Maria Christine C. Castro
For many, the topic of the vagina is a taboo subject. For the Vagina Monologues, it is the one subject that matters. The V-Monologues is a series of stories written by Eve Ensler that focuses on topics such as self identity, sex, relationships, and violence towards women. This year it was produced at UH Hilo by Ms. Karishma Kamath with a cast of nineteen talented women on Feb. 17 at the Old Gym to celebrate the play’s 20th anniversary.
The V-Monologues were first produced in the year 1996 at the HERE Arts Center of New York. Ensler produced the play with the purpose of “celebrating vaginas,” but by 1998 the V-Monologues became a big contribution for the V-Day movement to end violence against women.
In the present day, the V-Monologues have been produced at universities and colleges across America to continue the cause of the V-Day movement. The play has given women the chance to empower themselves with a voice. They are able to speak about the struggles that women go through regarding their vaginas, which is something that is usually seen as a socially taboo topic.
On the Big Island, schools and organizations in the community have produced the play around Valentine’s Day for the past fifteen years. This year, the play was not the only event to celebrate V-Day, as the week leading up to the play was known as V-Week. The week’s activities included the Flash Mob event on Valentine’s Day and the Emotional Creatures play on Feb. 18.
The V-Monologues cast was filled with women on different ends of the age, race, and background spectrum. The cast, which included mothers, female students, and even a young girl, all agreed that they joined the V-Monologues because it allowed them to meet women who were as passionate as they were about feminine empowerment.
The play also supported women in need, as 90% of the ticket proceeds went to local organizations that primarily help women in crisis. This year, the proceeds went to the YWCA Sexual Assault Support Services and the HawCC Domestic Violence Summit that will be held in Oct. 2018.
During the weeks of pre-production, the cast’s days were filled with individual hard readings, group run-throughs, and positive criticism that resulted in an emotional, whimsical, and eye-opening play. With the productions still fresh in their minds, the cast members shared what they learned from participating in the Vagina Monologues.
One cast member, Christina, firmly believes that the play teaches anyone who watches it that “women should be respected.” The monologues were all true stories that many women could relate to, especially around topics like domestic violence. The V-Monologues can also be customized to involve the individual voices of cast members; some schools that produce the play have students who choose to perform pieces they wrote themselves. And with new monologues always being added to the play, it remains up-to-date with current events.
Cast member Stephanie believes that “self-image” is at the heart of the V-Monologues. For her, the V-Monologues “cannot ever be done enough, and will never not be important.”
When asked what she believed is the message of the V-Monologues, cast member Char Fernandez states that the message of her particular solo piece, titled The Little Coochi Snorcher that Could, “really depends on the person listening.” This particular monologue had such powerful emotions that she believed it could “transform how you feel about yourself,” based on your own experiences.
First-time member Cecily Thornton realized that the V-Monologues “bring unpopular concepts to the public.” Many of the concepts in the play, such as rape, are subjects that can be difficult to bring up casually. For Thornton, the V-Monologues were her way of showing “what’s happening to the world rather than staying silent.” As a shy person, Thornton was initially a bit uncomfortable saying the word vagina while performing, but after some practice it became easier. That’s what she and her fellow cast member Fernandez want the play to achieve: for the word “vagina” to sound normal to everyone rather than a word to snicker and blush about.
Like Thornton, returning cast member “L” saw the V-Monologues as a powerful way to bring up sensitive topics, especially for the LGBTQ+ community. L participates in the V-Monologues to perform a “little act of resistance” during the “tough times” that people in the LGBTQ+ community go through. With the idea of promoting the fact that women make up the other half of “mankind,” L has enjoyed being a part of the V-Monologues cast for two consecutive years.
The V-Monologues are certainly not one of those plays you can leave without taking something away from. Watching the V-Monologues sheds new light on the social stigmas around the struggles that women face. Ensler states that people see vaginas as taboo because “vagina sounds like a word that no one wants to say.” In the play, the word vagina is used casually to emphasize that the word is not a disease, but simply a part of a woman's natural body.