Dropping the stigma
From highlighting the uncomfortable after-effects of shaving to drawing attention to rape in Africa and naming your “coochie-snorcher”, the vagina was the subject of discourse last weekend in the Turret for Laurier’s annual Vagina Monologues.
The incredible script – which Eve Ensler, an American playwright, performer and feminist, produced in 1996 after interviewing over 200 women – carried the show as Laurier’s very own Vagina Monologues, which featured a total cast of 25, held four performances to explore all things vagina.
The overall vibe of the show was positive and it was well-received by the predominantly female audience, even if some of the 14 performances were somewhat lacklustre.
However, with such strong writing from Ensler, it’s nearly impossible not to do the collection of monologues well, as it is the sharing of experiences that resonates with the audience.
The standout performance of the night was Hanna Johnston’s rendition of “Reclaiming Cunt” – one of the more overtly sexual scripts – during which she got off to the letters C-U-N-T, screaming, moaning and climaxing to the word.
“Cunt is a word that is used so often in a derogatory manner towards women,” said Johnston after her performance on Friday night. “In reclaiming it I’ve taken power for it.”
Other notable performances of the night were Katherine Karpiak’s “The Flood”; Laura Adelman’s “Angry Vagina”; and Lauren Munro’s “A Teenage Girl’s Guide to Surviving Sex Slavery”.
Although not one of the strongest performances, “The Woman Who Loved to Make Vagina Happy” featured a creative element.
Various performers were scattered throughout the audience screaming out in pleasure, including the Stephen Harper’s moan – “prorogue, prorogue!” – to the college orgasm – “I should be studying!”
As the rights to Ensler’s work are free of charge, there are a long set of rules outlining how the monologues are to be performed, which can be somewhat restrictive.
Director Jocelyn Smith noted that areas like the orgasm scene allowed her to have creative control while still adhering to Ensler’s specific vision.
As Smith noted, the whole point of the show is to get people to use the word vagina and talk about the different issues associated with it.
“The more you get people talking, the more comfortable they are with their bodies, the more willing to talk about problems,” said Smith.
Creative manager Winona Phachanla agreed, adding, “It gives a different light and perspective to women’s bodies and genitalia that’s empowering and liberating because too often women are put down and judged on their bodies.”
This review was based on the Friday night show; the cast rotated for each performance.
Prior to Ensler’s monologues, this year the show included a new initiative called Radical Bodies: A Collection of Monologues, which allowed students to create original scripts.
Stories ranged from women dealing with not wanting to look in the mirror, coming out about being transgendered and dealing with severe weight gain because of anti-depressant medications.
“They are not just about the experiences of having a vagina or vulva, they’re about the experiences of being in a body,” said Laura Adelman, who performed “Trans Story.”
As part of the event, which was hosted by the WLU Women’s Centre, art on the subject of “body” from the Laurier community was also on display in order to engage the entire campus.