The Vagina Monologues Brings a Range of Women’s Experiences to the Clark Stage

Oscar Kim Bauman, Scarlet Staff

On February 15th and 16th, in Atwood Hall, Clark’s production of The Vagina Monologues presented a wide range of experiences about women’s sexual and personal identities, ranging from the humorous to the heart-wrenching. Proceeds from the show went to support Planned Parenthood of Central Massachusetts and V-Day’s Spotlight on women in prison, detention centers, and formerly incarcerated women.

The play, which was written by Eve Ensler based on interviews she conducted with hundreds of women, premiered in 1996. In 1998, the V-Day movement and non-profit was established, encouraging royalty-free performances of The Vagina Monologues to be performed in order to raise money for charitable causes, typically focusing on issues impacting women.

According to First-year student Sobia Khokhar, who performed the monologue “The Flood,” The Vagina Monologues is “a way for women to be represented surrounding a stigmatized area.”

In the 22 years of its existence, The Vagina Monologues has become both an institution, and a cultural lightningrod. While it has achieved widespread acclaim, being praised as “probably the most important piece of political theater of the last decade,” in 2006 by Charles Isherwood, writing for The New York Times, this feminist play has also faced criticism by feminists.

The most prominent critique of The Vagina Monologues, as may be inferred by the title, has been that, in its centering of vaginas in female identity, it excludes transgender women, who may not have vaginas, as well as transgender men and non-binary people, who may have vaginas and not fall into the category of women.

This issue was addressed in Clark’s production: in a disclaimer read before the play, co-directors Annie Kaplan, Lital Dotan, and Victoria Beyer told the audience that while groundbreaking, The Vagina Monologues remains a product of its time, and that not all women have vaginas, and not all people with vaginas are women.

In addition, the inclusion of the monologue “They Beat the Girl Out of My Boy,” performed by Gari De Ramos, Andrea Gilardi, Jeri Birgen, and Kalea Barger, which presents the personal narrative of a transgender woman, and the obstacles she faced in her transition, adds a broader picture of women’s experiences than the show’s title may imply.

Khokhar said that the experience of taking part in The Vagina Monologues was“a good process,” which featured “a lot of bonding and supporting each other with both emotional and monologue-related things.”

While the majority of the monologues were performed as originally written, the production was not without its unique quirks. The play’s penultimate monologue, “The Woman Who Loved to Make Vaginas Happy,” performed by Aryana Kubiak, is from the perspective of a sex worker, and spends much of its time describing the diverse moans made by her female clientele.

As performed by Niqui Dizon, Arai Long, Anna Friberg, and De Ramos, these moans include one named for Wright Hall, which culminates in an exclamation of “touchdown!” and a Clark-specific moan of “challenge convention, change my world!,” both of which elicited laughter from the packed crowd.

Other monologues had a less cheerful effect on the crowd. “My Vagina Was My Village,” performed by Dizon and Maddy Molina, and based on testimonies of women raped by soldiers during the 1992-1995 Bosnian War, was particularly graphic and sobering in its content. This, and three other monologues, featured warnings in the program regarding their containing content related to “themes of rape, abuse, and/or violence.”

The tone of the monologues varied throughout the night from the humorous to the horrific, the reflective to the recalcitrant. Even over two decades after it was first performed, The Vagina Monologues continues to enlighten audiences about experiences they often shy away from discussing.