Celebrating another type of V-Day

Cal Poly's production of "The Vagina Monologues" hits Spanos theater Feb. 17-19

Listen, ponder, laugh and learn about an infamous part of the female body — the vagina — with Cal Poly’s upcoming performance of “The Vagina Monolouges.”

The award-winning fundraiser play, written by women’s-rights activist and author Eve Ensler, will be performed Feb. 17 to 19 in the Christopher Cohan Performing Arts Center Pavilion. The play is meant to bring awareness about the importance of ending violence against females; it’s a reenactment of various stories Ensler wrote after interviewing many women about sexuality.

“I like that it’s removing the taboo about talking about sex, masturbation, orgasms and sexual assault,” coordinator of the Gender Equity Center Christina Kaviani said. “It just puts it all out there in the open. I’ve been involved in some capacity for 10 years in ‘The Vagina Monologues,’ and I’ve never met someone that’s regretted going.”

This marks the ninth year the play is performed at Cal Poly. The performance is part of  “V-Day,” an annual world-wide social-activism movement founded by Ensler which raises awareness about ending violence against women. According to vday.org, the official website of V-Day, the “V” stands for “victory, valentine and vagina.”

More than 5,800 V-Day volunteer-based fundraiser events educated millions of people around the world last year, according to its website.

At Cal Poly, vagina-shaped chocolates are also being sold on campus as part of the fundraising efforts.

Americorps VIP Fellow at the Gender Equity Center Veronica Heiskell, said 10 percent of the profit from all “The Vagina Monologues” shows goes to V-Day, and the rest is dispersed locally.

“One-hundred percent of the proceeds are going toward organizations that work to end violence against women and girls,” Heiskell said. “Ten percent of the proceeds from every showing of ‘The Vagina Monologues’ globally are donated to the V-Day movement. This year, the spotlight campaign is on women in Haiti, with funds supporting an organization in Haiti that provides safe shelter and legal resources for local women. The remaining 90 percent of the proceeds for our local show are going to organizations that are working to end violence against women and girls in our county.”

The local beneficiaries of V-Day related fundraising efforts at Cal Poly include: the Safer program at Cal Poly, the Sexual Assault and Recovery Program of San Luis Obispo County (SARP), the Women’s Shelter Program of San Luis Obispo County  and the North County Women’s Shelter and Resource Center.

Michelle Houston, a student assistant with the Gender Equity Center, helped coordinate “The Vagina Monologues” this year.

Houston said it is important for men to be a part of V-Day as well.

“We’re trying to especially reach out to men in this discussion, because we think they can be an integral role in ending sexual assault,” Houston said. “It’s open to anyone and everyone. I think that it’s important for men to come out and see the performance. It’s really empowering for people to come to the show and understand the issues that women deal with.”

Americorps VIP Fellow for Safer Kyle Rosso said he really enjoyed the show last year, even if he wasn’t too thrilled about attending at first.

“At first, it wasn’t something I was very excited about going to because it’s ‘The Vagina’ Monologues,’ and I didn’t know how comfortable I’d be as a male,” Rosso said. “However, I found the performance amazing. I’m really happy I went, and I think it was really great to see two-hour performances from powerful women and powerful stories that relate to women’s issues. It’s not often that you get two hours packed with discussion of women’s issues. You don’t have to be anti-men to be pro-women.”

Nick Billich is the Americorps VIP Fellow for the men and masculinity program on campus and said he also enjoyed the performance.

“One of the most moving parts for me was in the first act, there’s a part where one of the actors talks about the physical makeup of the vagina and it blew my mind,” Billich said. “My thought was that it’s pretty amazing that god created such a complex and intricate part of a human body.”

“The Vagina Monologues” cast is a culmination of students and community member volunteers who had to audition in November and undergo plenty of practice before performing Ensler’s play.

There are three directors: Erin Inglish, Kamryn Fall and Brandon Martin. Inglish is a building energy efficiency specialist and sustainability coordinator for a local school district, Fall is a general engineering sophomore at Cal Poly and Martin is an AmeriCorps VIP Fellow with Friday Night Live.

“We’re looking for people who are passionate, who are inspired by the V-Day movement and not necessarily actresses because they’re dedicating their time to ending violence against women and girls,” Heiskell said. “Everyone involved is volunteering their time.”

Every year, the “The Vagina Monologues” show at Cal Poly sells out and students are encouraged to buy tickets now. There are only 300 seats per performance, Heiskell said.

Tickets for “The Vagina Monologues” are $15 and are available at the Gender Equity Center, online or at the Performing Arts Ticket Office.

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