‘The Vagina Monologues’ will be performed tonight at Hop

by Emma Guo | 2/16/17 12:00am

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Vagina Monologues dress rehearsal

by Laura Lewin / The Dartmouth

First performed in 1996 at the HERE Arts Center in New York City, “The Vagina Monologues” has quickly blossomed into one of the feminist movement’s most relevant and empowering pieces of theater. Written by Eve Ensler, “The Vagina Monologues” is composed of a series of monologues based on interviews Ensler conducted with over 200 women. Each episode includes instances that deal with the feminine experience, employing topics such as sex, rape, birth and the various names for the vagina.

Since its conception, “The Vagina Monologues” has been adopted in many forms across the country and around the world. Today, Dartmouth will be putting on its 19th annual production of the monologues in association with the V-February movement, which promotes awareness and prevention of gender-based violence as well as the spreading of gender equality. “The Vagina Monologues” will be one of three productions throughout V-February, the other two being “Voices” and “Upstaging Stereotypes.”

In an effort to increase the relevance of the monologues to college students in 2017, co-directors Olivia Fine ’20 and Liz Klein ’17 have taken steps to place the show into context for students.

“We’re making this year’s rendition political and including media from the current political climate and political events,” Fine said. “There is mention of Dartmouth in the play.”

Historically, “The Vagina Monologues” has received its fair share of criticism for its controversial commentaries, such as equating biological sex with gender, giving too much attention to non-consensual sexual experiences and negatively portraying homosexual relationships in a way that is representative of a time significantly different than 2017. Fine and Klein are also attempting to facilitate a conversation about the controversies and problematic areas of the show after it is performed.

While some monologues are controversial, the majority serves to empower women and spread awareness of issues that pervade today’s society, such as gender-based violence and sexual assault. Ensler’s early monologues, such as “Because He Liked to Look At It,” help women feel confident with their bodies. More recent monologues such as “Under the Burqa” touch upon the role of femininity, culture and religion in modern society.

“I hope that audience members are empowered throughout the production to work on these issues and become more aware of the issues, and to keep up the fight for equality and justice,” Fine said.

Sumner Matthews ’20, a cast member, is performing a monologue entitled, “My Revolution Begins in the Body,” a piece about dreaming of a world that accepts women and the earth as they are. The piece empowers women, giving a message to shake off societal constructs and patriarchal values in their opinions of themselves.

“It’s been wonderful being in a space with self-identifying women sharing and going through this process because it’s a lot of heavy material,” said Matthews, adding that she hopes that every self-identifying Dartmouth female will be able to have a similar experience.

With the intent of entertaining and raising awareness, “The Vagina Monologues” has become a worldwide phenomenon since its conception, and Ensler adds in new pieces each year to reflect the current state of the world.

“This play is so important and historically has been so important in empowering women and giving them a voice, and I feel like we’ve really formed a community within the cast,” Fine said. “I’m looking forward to sharing all the hard work we’ve been putting in with the audience.”

“The Vagina Monologues” will be performed in Spaulding Auditorium at 7 p.m. Tickets for students are free, and tickets for community members are $9 to $10.