Students and faculty work to end violence and rape in the Congo with empowering monologues
From its humble beginnings as a one-woman show in New York City to its performances around the world, Eve Ensler’s “The Vagina Monologues” has provided its message to countless people, both men and women, since 1996.
A few of those involved with UNLV’s production of the play spoke about why it has become so important to so many.
The Rebel Yell: In your own words, what are the Vagina Monologues. What is their main purpose?
Lisa Levine — Junior, Political Science
Lisa Levine: The Vagina Monologues is an empowering show for women. The show aims to exhibit how women, for so long, have been structured by society to loathe their bodies and their sexuality. This production motivates women to embrace all of that and realize there is no reason for anyone to not love themselves, their bodies, and their sexuality.
RY: What made you get involved with this production?
LL: I see how this world has and continues to discriminate based on gender, sex, class, ethnicity, etc. And I want to be a part of something that is moving for change. The Vagina Monologues is just that, it is a step forward, a part of the movement, for equality and a more virtuous world. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of this?
RY: How would you respond to cynics who feel that a production like the Vagina Monologues is too controversial.
LL: Of course it is controversial. Can you think of a time in history where it is possible to recall any form of social movement in which, at that time, wasn’t viewed as “controversial.” Controversy is relative. If this is controversial to some right now, then so be it. I hope those whom shy away from this show and its message, its purpose, come watch the show.
Because if they consume the true purpose and reason behind The Vagina Monologues, I believe it is inescapable to not love it.
Rachel Creagh — Senior, Secondary Education
RY: What do you do during the Monologues?
RC: I am performing one monologue about the rape of a woman in Bosnia.
RY: What is a lasting memory you have from doing the Monologues?
RC: Last year was my first performance and a lasting memory was the first full run through. Even though most of us had seen the production in pieces and parts and it was an extremely moving and emotional experience to see the whole show put together. The work that all of my cast members put in is a tribute to women all around the world.
RY: Why do you feel that these monologues are important?
RC: The monologues are important because they inform the audience that rape and violence are global tragedies. The money that is donated goes to support women and girls that have been through extraordinary experiences.
RY: What can people do to get involved with V-day activities?
RC: People can go to Vday.org to learn about the organization and its history, donate to the cause and find different ways to participate.
RY: Please respond to the cynics who feel that a production like the Vagina Monologues is too controversial.
RC: I would agree that they are controversial, and that is the point. You can’t throw rose petals on the issues of rape and violence. They are both graphic and awful and the Vagina Monologues stresses to expose those claims to get people actively thinking about how we can end the violence.
RY: What do you hope people take out of the Monologues and V-Day?
RC: I hope that the women leave with a new respect for themselves regardless if they have experienced violence in the past. I want women to feel that they are not alone if they identify with one or more monologues. I hope the men take a new perspective on the challenges that women face with regards to self image, expectations in a relationship, and jokes about rape and violence toward women.
RY: What do you hope to gain from your experiences here?
RC: Between this year and last I have gained a new perspective of women through the monologues and the cast members. The cast members come from all walks of life but we are all tied together by one mission, to stop violence toward women. Seeing other women participate in this organization made me realize it doesn’t matter where you live, or how much money you make, chances are you will identify with one of these monologues.
Brittany Stull — Vagina Monologues Student Director, senior
Rebel Yell: Why are the Vagina Monologues so important?
Brittany Stull: [The Vagina Monologues] are the accumulation of many different stories, like hundreds of different women. In fact, there is an entire monologue about how she interviewed thousands of different types of women.
What’s important is that even if you don’t get all of them, there’s something in there somewhere that can relate to anybody.
RY: Do you have a memory from a past performance that made an impression on you?
BS: Honestly, the whole thing was because I had never done anything like this before. Also, I liked that anyone could do it. You didn’t have to audition to get a part. Anyone who wants to can do it, and I think that’s really cool. It’s more about the message of the piece than the piece itself.
RY: What do you hope people will get out of the performances?
BS: I hope they have a good time. There is something in the monologues for everyone to relate to. And I hope people take a message for themselves, even if it is not the message that we are trying to get across — the antiviolence thing — I hope they get something that they can take with them.
Janis Duncan — Faculty Director, Women’s Studies Department
Rebel Yell: What is the significance of the Vagina Monologues?
Janis Duncan: The importance of it is that it is a movement that brings awareness about violence against women. And more than that, it is a movement to end that violence not just in Vegas, but nationally and internationally.
It started out as a one-woman off-Broadway play and after her off-Broadway play, some of these women came up to her and said “Hey, I have a story!”
And from there it has turned into celebrities doing the monologues into a national thing where it is performed around the country in almost every town, and now it is an international production. It’s been in more than 400 cities around the world.
RY: How did you get involved with the Vagina Monologues?
JD: When the monologues first came out in the 90s, I was living in the Northeast so I came out to see it and it changed my life.
I was a psychotherapist at the time with my own private practice and it broadened my scope personally and professionally. Every time I see it, it enlightens me even more.
It’s very empowering for women.
RY: Describe V-Day and its connection to the monologues.
JD: V-Day is a national name for the movement. The “V” stands for victory, valentine, vagina and ending violence. Through V-Day, the Vagina Monologues are put on along with some other movements.
RY: How do you feel this group has done this year and what do you hope they take out of it?
JD: This year, we had a shorter deadline to work under, so I think this is an extraordinary group of women to memorize this because it is a lot of hard work, and every woman here has a story and I hope they can relate this to their own lives.
RY: Is there anything you’d like to say about the play itself?
JD: Well I hope that those who see this will spread the word that this is not just a play about vaginas. It is a movement and everyone who buys a ticket for this is an activist helping to end violence against women.
I would also like to say that the word “vagina” is just like nose, mouth, penis, eye. It is a body part and it doesn’t mean anything derogatory or nasty unless people give it that meaning.