'The Vagina Monologues' to feature theatrical activism in 20th production

by Savannah Miller | 2/20/18 1:15am

This Wednesday, students will take one of the stages at the Hopkins Center for the Arts to perform “The Vagina Monologues,” an evolution of theatrical activism. “The Vagina Monologues,” written by Eve Ensler, debuted in 1996 and created a national dialogue surrounding gender in America. Through a series of episodic monologues and speeches told by women of all races, ages and sexualities, Ensler’s original work brought attention to the issue of gender-based violence and healthy modern sexuality.

Performing “The Vagina Monologues” has been a tradition at Dartmouth for years, and Wednesday will mark its 20th production. The performance is part of V-February at the College, an event and movement to end gender-based violence while promoting gender equality on campus and off.

This year, Sara Cho ’20 and Madeline Levangie ’21 are the co-directors of “The Vagina Monologues.” Despite the monologues being written over 20 years ago, Levangie believes that their content is just as relevant to today.

“Sexism is something that we are still struggling with as a society, and especially at Dartmouth,”Levangie wrote in an email statement.

“The Vagina Monologues” was cast back in early January and is comprised of 11 students, eight of whom are underclassmen, Levangie wrote. The show had a formal rehearsal once a week, but the actors also do a lot of work on their own.

Gricelda Ramos ’18, who acted in “The Vagina Monologues” her sophomore year and is currently the director of V-February, is excited to see what Cho and Levangie do with the piece.

“When you get them to talk about what they’re passionate about or what they’re doing, you see this fire inside of them,” Ramos said. “I wanted to give new students at Dartmouth a way to dip their feet into theatrical activism.”

Those involved with the project feel it is important for students to see how relevant the content of “The Vagina Monologues” is to society and Dartmouth in particular.

“It’s bringing in the importance of gender equity and ending gender-based violence to campus,” Ramos said. “I believe we’re sometimes in a little snow globe and forget what’s happening in the real world.”

Levangie noted existence of sexual violence on campus as a primary reason for why “The Vagina Monologues” needs to be produced and performed at Dartmouth every year.

“Sexual violence is still a problem all around the world, and college campuses have some of the worst environments for sexual violence,” she wrote. “I hope that we get a lot of people to come see the show and that we bring awareness to the issues that women face like sexism, discrimination and violence.”

In addition to “The Vagina Monologues,” V-February will be also include student performances of “Voices” and “Upstaging Stereotypes.” “Voices” is an original production written by students in response to “The Vagina Monologues” addressing how the piece does not represent all members of the female community, a common critique of the piece that Ensler has even acknowledged and addressed herself.

Ramos believes it is important to acknowledge the barriers “The Vagina Monologues” broke while recognizing its shortcomings.

“People who aren’t necessarily seen as woman by society can also identify as woman,” she said. “I think it’s important to have a piece like ‘Vagina Monologues’ in order to remember where our thought process started. [‘Voices’] is students writing back to [‘The Vagina Monologues’] about their own experiences.”

“Upstaging Stereotypes” addresses similar ideas to “Voices” and “The Vagina Monologues” but highlights masculinity and identity.

Despite its shortcomings, “The Vagina Monologues” remains a staple of V-February and one of the most anticipated events of the month-long program. Ramos chalks this up to the piece’s ability to open minds and introduce students to new ideas or perspectives they did not previously understand.

“We come to college to learn, but we also come to expand on ideas that we already know,” she said. “When you see performances like this and you see your peers and how they grow on that stage, you partake in that and you grow into a better citizen.”

Levangie is hopeful that the performance will successfully open a conversation on campus.

“I think Dartmouth students can get a new perspective on feminism and sexual violence [from seeing ‘The Vagina Monologues’],” she said. “I think it will help students think about their everyday actions and how sexism is perpetuated by certain aspects of Dartmouth culture.”

“The Vagina Monologues” will be performed at Wednesday, Feb. 21 at 7 p.m. in Spaulding Auditorium.