Monologue Dialogues Follow Scripps’ Performance of the Vagina Monologues

Every year, Eve Ensler’s The Vagina Monologues is performed in hundreds of countries around the world. According to the V-Day Claremont Colleges Facebook group, “The award-winning play is based on V-Day Founder/playwright Eve Ensler’s interviews with more than 200 women. With humor and grace the piece celebrates women’s sexuality and strength. Through this play and the liberation of this one word [“vagina”], countless women throughout the world have taken control of their bodies and their lives. For more than twelve years, The Vagina Monologues has given voice to experiences and feelings not previously exposed in public.” From April 3rd to April 5th, 5C students performed the series of fifteen monologues revolving around (cisgender) women and their vaginas in Benson Auditorium at Pitzer College.
The performances were regarded as a huge success. Benson was packed full, with students lining the back wall of the auditorium. Informational tables with representatives from House of Ruth, a local organization that assists women and children who have endured domestic violence, and to which the proceeds from the 5C performances of “The Vagina Monologues” went, were present both before and after each performance to answer questions and to provide any necessary support. The actresses — coming from Scripps, Pitzer, Pomona, Mudd, CMC, and the wider, local community — were brilliant, taking the breathless audience through the emotional highs and lows of the Monologues.
But what was perhaps most interesting was the openness with which the performers and producers spoke about critiques of Eve Ensler’s “Monologues,” both before the auditorium cleared, and in the Q&A period after the official end of the show. At the end of each performance, co-producer Rachel Kipnes (Pitzer ’14) took time to address the recognized, inherent limitations of the show as written by Eve Ensler — primarily, that while The Vagina Monologues does give a voice to some individuals, it is a very limited group. Co-producer Robin Brody (Pitzer ’15) and directors Emery Lieverman-Auerbach ’14 and Eden Olsen ’14 joined in, explaining that they recognize that the Monologues doesn’t address queer bodies at all, and that the fact that Eve Ensler is a white, educated, upper-middle-class woman is very transparent, especially as many of the monologues are written as white voices: “This is violent and offensive to people who don’t see themselves here [in the narrow group of people for whom Ensler provides a voice].” Kipnes explained during the Q&A period that although there are severe limitations within The Vagina Monologues that need to be addressed, it is important that voices are heard, and that those that are not heard are recognized. Because the Monologues is well-known, it draws a crowd. If even a quarter of the crowd hears her statement at the end of each performance expressing the problems with the show, she explained, that’s doing something important. It’s spreading awareness. As she announced at the end of the performance, The Monologue Dialogues is the event to go to, as it deals directly with the voices who do not receive attention in Ensler’s play.
The Monologue Dialogues: Amplifying Unheard Narratives is a 7C event which will take place on Friday, April 25 at 7:00 p.m. on the Miss America Steps of Scripps College. According to Claire Hirschberg ’15, who has been heavily involved in the organization of the event, the Dialogues “is a part of Family’s GAYpril events and will be a mic night event where people can share poems, songs, monologues, collaborative performances, and any other self-expression someone wants to bring to our stage. We recognize that our event stands in contrast to The Vagina Monologues. However, our goal is not to exist in opposition to the play, as we recognize that for many people it’s a powerful and significant performance. In putting on The Monologue Dialogues, we are trying to create a different type of space; one where marginalized narratives are centralized, and one in which self-expression is welcomed, allowing the contextualization of each person’s story.” The Dialogues recognizes that womanhood is not based on the vagina, and escapes the limitation found in “The Vagina Monologues” that the monologues are not necessarily the stories of the actors performing them, by inviting 7C community members to shape and share their own narratives.
Felicia Agrelius ’17, Claire Hirschberg ’15, and Danie Diamond ’15, who have been central in leading Family in organizing this event, would like to make clear that the Dialogues is not a follow-up for the “Monologues,” nor is it in opposition to it; rather, the Dialogues is an alternative space, a re-centering. Those interested in participating can make submissions up until April 26 by signing up on the Facebook Group, “The Monologue Dialogues: Call for Submissions!”
Every narrative is important. Between the 5C production of The Vagina Monologues and the upcoming Monologue Dialogues event, April in Claremont will have heard quite a few. With so many different perspectives being voiced and shared, this is a truly fantastic thing.