- Letters to Editor
BY: ABIGAIL WHITEHOUSE
Vagina. There, I said it, but I’m not the only one. Alongside me Tuesday evening were more than 100 people saying the word loud, proud and in unison. For those not familiar with Eve Ensler’s original production of “The Vagina Monologues,” this could seem a bit uncomfortable. For those who are well acquainted with the play and it’s purpose, vagina is much more than just a word, and it’s meant to be shouted.
This week marks the 10th annual production of The Vagina Monologues at Eastern and, with more than 200 tickets sold on opening night, co-directors LeAnn Stokes and Emily Atwood are celebrating.
The Vagina Monologues is not just an evening of raging, vagina-loving fun. This production has a much deeper message and draws attention to the needless and often ignored violence perpetrated against women around the world. Based on more than 200 interviews with women of all ages across the world, the play consists of a number of varying monologues performed by several different women. Each monologue addresses some aspect of the feminine experience, covering a range of topics from finding your clitoris to giving birth.
Atwood, a nursing major from Louisville, said the early years of the production were somewhat rough.
“Ten years ago we were being told no by everyone,” Atwood said. “We were refused rooms, auditoriums and basically any space at all. People protested our presence and even sent us hate mail.”
According to Atwood, this year’s 10th anniversary not only demonstrates an established presence in Richmond, but they are happy to say not one piece of hate mail has been received.
Atwood is not only a co-director of the play, but she has also been performing in the production for the last five years. Her role in the monologue titled, “My Vagina Was My Village,” is one Atwood takes very seriously because this particular monologue gives the haunting testimonies of young women victims of the Bosnian rape camps in the early 1990s.
Lauren Stapleton, an English and women gender studies double major from Lewisport, is a first-time performer in this year’s production, and she said is proud to be a part of such a powerful experience.
“It’s been a completely life-changing experience,” Stapleton said. “I’ve had a really rough year, but being surrounded by all of these amazing women has helped me through everything.”
For Stapleton, being a part of the Vagina Monologues goes far beyond the familiar love of acting.
“When I’m on stage I’m not just living for myself,” Stapleton said, “I’m telling other amazing women’s stories.”
Stapleton is one of four girls performing the monologue titled, “They Beat The Girl Out Of My Boy.” Although many of the performances throughout the show will have you laughing out of your seat, this particular monologue paints a much darker picture of the life and experiences of trans women. The focus of this monologue is not just the struggle for acceptance, but more importantly the violence that is too commonly committed against trans women.
You may have noticed the phrase “One Billion Rising” on production fliers across campus, and many of you may be wondering what it means.
One in three women will be beaten or raped during her lifetime. This horrifying statistic triggered what is now known as V-Day; a global movement to end violence against women and girls. For V-Day’s 15th anniversary, One Billion Rising was created, inviting one billion women to walk out, dance, rise up, and demand an end to this violence.
If you don’t feel like rising up or dancing, you can still make a contribution to the movement by attending one of the performances on campus this week. All proceeds from ticket sales and merchandise will go to the Bluegrass Rape Crisis Center and Hope’s Wings Domestic Violence Shelter. General admission is $10 and student admission is $5.
LeAnn Stokes, co-director of the play and women’s gender studies professor from Madisonville, says that she is very pleased with this year’s turn out.
“I think for us the 10th anniversary shows that we’ve established a presence on Eastern’s campus,” Stokes said. “It has really changed. The community is much more welcoming and I think it is safe to say that Richmond is officially a vagina-friendly city.”
The last performance of Eastern’s 10th annual production of The Vagina Monologues will be staged at 7 p.m. Feb. 22 in O’Donnell Auditorium of the Student Success Building.