A sexual encounter with a man who loves vaginas and a woman’s insight on coping as a sex-slave are just two of the 16 commentaries from Vagina Monologues, a global performance that will be acted out by the San Luis Obispo community for the seventh year at Cal Poly’s Performing Arts Center this weekend.
Author and activist Eve Ensler created the Vagina Monologues 10 years ago after performing hundreds of interviews with women all over the world about intimacy, sexual self-discovery and simply what it means to have a vagina.
Christina Kaviani, assistant coordinater of Cal Poly’s Women’s Programs and Services, helped in bringing the production back this year. She says every performance was sold out last year.
“It’s the biggest production that celebrates women in the world,” Kaviani said. “There’s no other movement like it. Women in Afghanistan are holding Vagina Monologues and women in California are holding it. It’s powerful and necessary to have at a college campus.”
The Vagina Monologues, now translated into 45 different languages, acted as the inspiration for V-Day, a global movement to end violence against women. All proceeds for every performance go to that cause including organizations like SARP, Sexual Assault Recovery and Prevention. Not only are the Vagina Monologues performed to discourage violent acts against women, but it is considered a provocative take on celebrating women’s sexuality. The testimonies include fantasies, inhibitions and intimate experiences.
The 2010 cast consists of mostly students as well as three Cal Poly graduates and one Cal Poly staff member.
Anna Acuna, a kinesiology senior, saw a flier the morning of the auditions and decided to try out that night. She will be performing the monologue entitled “The Vagina Workshop.” Acuna explains it as a very intelligent and nerdy young woman who knows what a vagina is and knows a vagina’s purpose, but has never actually experienced its purpose.
“She goes to a workshop to find herself and find her essence, not just an anatomical place,” Acuna said. “I see a lot of the qualities and traits I have in this woman, and she uses language I could see myself saying. This monologue helped me appreciate that nerdy aspect of myself.”
Liza Jaros, a wine and viticulture sophomore attended the show last year with her mother and remembers getting chills. She decided she wanted to be a part of the movement this year. Jaros will be preforming a monologue entitled “Reclaiming Cunt,” a woman’s fascination with the word ‘cunt’ and her bold take on bringing a positive connotation to the word, spelling it out through a series of orgasmic noises and moans.
“I used to think it was a nasty word, and it disgusted me when I heard it,” she said. “The more I love the word, I can’t stop saying it.”
Jaros commented on how few guys were in the audience when she first saw the performance, estimating about seven men who were mostly husbands and boyfriends. She says her dad and boyfriend made a pact to go together to see her perform this year.
“Once they hear the world ‘vagina’ they get that deer in the headlights look,” Acuna said about the cast’s attempts to encourage men to go. “Guys think it’s going to be feminists burning books … It’s not like that at all … Everyday is a penis monologue, I think we can dedicate one day to listen to a collection of monologues about vaginas.”
Eric Veium, a 2008 Cal Poly alumnus in industrial engineering, says this will be his fifth time attending the Vagina Monologues, and 4th time seeing the performance at Cal Poly.
“Women are a mystery, and I feel as if I can get a deep understanding of a woman by knowing her vagina,” Veium said.
His favorite monologue is called “The Woman Who Loved to Make Vaginas Happy.”
“The person that does that monologue is amazing,” Veium said. “If you’ve seen it before you know what I’m talking about. It changes the way I relate to women and vaginas. It makes it something that’s open and celebrated.”
“We were laughing hysterically,” Acuna said about this same monologue performed by Keira Cumberland this year. “It felt like instant botox. I thought my cheek bones were going to fall off. She (Cumberland) executed it so well. The audience will love it!”
Even though the cast was laughing one minute, the final monologue brought almost all the girls to tears in rehearsal last week. Every year since the Vagina Monologues first started, Ensler announces a spotlight monologue that touches on what she feels are the most prominent stories dealing with violent acts against women going on in the world. The 2010 spotlight monologue focuses on rape victims in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Atlee Feingold, a recently graduated theater arts major will be performing the spotlight monologue this year. She describes it as a woman’s insight on how do cope with being a militia’s sex slave for two years. Feingold says this is the hardest role emotionally she’s ever had to get into character for.
“I’ve had consecutive dreams about getting raped,” she said. “At first it was really disturbing, but now I’m just dealing.”
The concept behind the Spotlight monologue this year according to Feingold is “no one can take anything away from you if you do not give it to them.”
“I started crying at the end of my rehearsal the other day, which really caught me off guard,” she said. “All the other girls were crying and I didn’t expect it.”
Cast member, Kris Roudebush works for the city of San Luis Obispo and graduated from Cal Poly in 2007. She is performing “I was there in the room,” which is a woman witnessing the birth of a child.
“It reaches out to the moms in the audience and reminds everyone where they came from,” she said. “(Vagina Monologues) changed my life five years ago when I first saw it. I was blushing, at 19 I realized, wow, you don’t know your body quite as well as you thought you did.”
Vagina Monologues will be showing Feb. 19, 20, and 21 at 7:30 in the Performing Arts Center Pavilion. Tickets are $12 for students and $15 for community members.