“The Vagina Monologues” will explore female experiences

by Amelia Rosch | 2/16/15 7:20pm

About 40 self-identifying Dartmouth women will take the stage tonight to perform monologues in the 17th annual performance of Eve Ensler’s “The Vagina Monologues” for V-February.V-February is the College’s annual campaign to end gender-based violence and promote gender equality, and the monologues performed tonight will encompass an array of issues relating to women’s sexuality, ranging from comical to more emotional and provocative performances.

Director Margot Yecies ’15, who has performed in the play three times, said that the performance is meant to address topics that go beyond issues exclusive to the College and raise awareness to themes of sexuality and gender in general.

“To me, it’s meant to start discussion more than anything else,” she said. “It’s a conversation starter for topics about female sexuality and the female body in general.”

Yecies said that one of the strengths of performing “The Vagina Monologues” at the College is that it helps bring together a strong community of women.

“I loved the experience of getting to meet all these women who were so confident in their femininity and sexuality,” she said. “That’s what got me hooked.”

Assistant director Lauren Budd ’18 said that while she applied to be on the executive board for V-Feb, she did not apply for a position with “The Vagina Monologues” specifically. Nevertheless, she said she was excited to be part of the production because it combines her interests in theater and combatting sexual assault through art. She said that she looked forward to being able to combine the two.

Budd echoed Yecies in citing the community of women that the production creates, saying that her favorite part of working on “The Vagina Monologues” has been getting to know the women involved in it.

“We have such a large cast of Dartmouth women from different backgrounds,” she said. “I’ve liked getting to know people from different contexts.”

Kit Hattier ’18, who is performing in this year’s production, said that she decided to get involved with the monologues in order to meet more women and be involved in a feminist issue. She said that she enjoyed getting to know a wide range of women, as well as gain new confidence in her femininity.

“The diverse group of women immediately became a safe, encouraging environment for self-expression, which I had never had the chance to experience in the past,” she said.

Lisa Li ’15, who is also performing, said that she was interested in participating after seeing the performance her freshman year because of the impression it left on her.

“I wanted to feel the other side and the performances of these stories and create more discussions around the issues surrounding women,” she said.

Yecies said that many of the performers in this year’s cast do not have previous acting experience, but the rights of “The Vagina Monologues,” stipulate that anyone who identifies as a woman and auditions must be cast.

“It’s one of the strengths that it has an open and inclusive community,” she said.

She said that the play’s flexible structure makes a larger cast size possible, with last year’s cast including 23 women. Yecies said while some of the monologues will be performed by a single woman on stage, others were split up among groups to accommodate the larger cast size. She said that parts were assigned based on fit and comfort.

Yecies said that despite having been performed 16 times at the College, this year’s production will still be original. She said that Ensler writes an original final monologue each year, and the College’s production will include a monologue, “My Short Skirt,” that was not included last year. She said that having a new cast for each production helps keep the play fresh.

“It’s always original because different people are always doing it, many of whom have never acted before or been involved in theater or feminist issues at Dartmouth before,” she said.

Yecies said that one of her goals as a director is making sure that the actors feel connected to their characters and emphasizing that all the monologues come from the experiences of real women.

“Even if they haven’t directly experienced it, we want them to find a way into that character and experience,” she said. “It’s about highlighting the humanity of it.”

Yecies said that her favorite monologue in the production is “My Angry Vagina,” which explores the day-to-day injustices of having a vagina, including tampons and pap smears. Her preference for the piece, she says, comes from its humorous take on the topic.

“It’s super funny, but it addresses real problems with how women have to live in society,” she said. “I think that humor is an effective way to address some of these issues. It helps keep people engaged and realize that there’s humor to be found in the worst situations.”

Both Hattier and Li said that “My Angry Vagina” was also their favorite of the play’s monologues.

“It feels good to laugh with other women over thoughts that are so common among us,” she said. “It’s funny, it’s true and it’s empowering.”

Li said that “My Angry Vagina” was her favorite of the monologues because she could relate to the issues and frustrations it raises.

Budd said that the range in monologues makes it hard for her to choose just one as a favorite. She said that she thinks different monologues will speak to different audience members because they range from humorous to moving.

In addition to the traditional pieces, the performance will also feature the Dartmouth Rockapellas.

The play is performed as part of V-Day, a movement started by Ensler to raise awareness of and end global violence against women and girls . She wrote “The Vagina Monologues” in 1996 after interviewing over 200 women about their experiences with sex, relationships and violence against women.

Because of student criticism that “The Vagina Monologues” does not accurately address all women’s experiences, the V-February organizers added the new, student-written production “Voices” to the month’s lineup in 2014.

“The Vagina Monologues” will be performed at 7 p.m. in Spaulding Auditorium, with a post-performance discussion. It will be free for students and $10 for community members. All proceeds raised by the performance will go to WISE of the Upper Valley and V-Day .

“Voices,” also part of V-February programming will be performed on March 3 and 4 at 7 p.m. in the Moore Theater .

Budd is a member of the Dartmouth staff.