The monologues that have swept the stage internationally for more than 10 years return to the Christopher Cohan Performing Arts Center this weekend. The award-winning Vagina Monologues is back at Cal Poly for the eighth year in a row to once again spread the true stories of women and their vaginas.
The production, which is sponsored by the Gender Equity Center (formerly Women’s Programs), is centered around a set of monologues collected by feminine activist Eve Ensler in 1996. The monologues themselves bloomed from anecdotes from friends, and soon other women contacted Ensler to tell her their stories. Ensler transformed these tales into theatrical monologues, which have since been performed in more than 140 countries.
Coordinator for the Gender Equity Center Christina Kaviani said Ensler wanted the monologues to cover all topics that stem from having a vagina.
“She wanted to bring awareness to some of the issues that women face such as rape, menstruation, masturbation, sex — anything involving the vagina,” Kaviani said. “So she set out on this journey to collect monologues that hit each one of those topics.”
Along the way, Ensler kept the momentum going. In 1998, she began the V-Day campaign, which is a global movement demanding an end to violence against women and girls. And every year, the campaign focuses on a country facing harsh conditions for women and girls, Kaviani said. This year, the spotlight is on Haiti.
“She goes into the country and sees the need, so The Vagina Monologues raises money, and all of the proceeds have to be donated to organizations that help end violence with women and girls,” Kaviani said.
To be exact, 10 percent of the proceeds from the show benefit the V-Day campaign, and the rest are donated to such organizations. Furthermore, the campaign is tied into the production itself. Every year, one monologue changes — the spotlight monologue. This particular part is directed toward educating the audience about the highlighted country.
Assistant Director for the production and journalism senior Alison Moore said the closing monologue is in the form of a letter written by Ensler to a feminine activist in Haiti who was killed in the recent earthquake. Moore said she thinks the monologue will have an enormous impact.
“We couldn’t have cast a more perfect pair with the women and the monologue,” Moore said. “It’s just perfection. I think it will be a showstopper.”
The other monologues cover all facets that come with having a vagina — from a young girl’s first menstruation to the connotation of the word “cunt.” Kaviani said two of her favorites are “My Angry Vagina” and “The Woman Who Liked to Make Vaginas Happy.”
“One talks about the annoying things about being a woman and having a vagina, and the other one is about orgasms and moaning and it’s really funny,” Kaviani said.
Kaviani, who has performed in the production and attended in the past, said the show is always an uplifting experience no matter how many times she’s seen it.
“Every monologue is a true story — nothing is made up,” Kaviani said. “So that’s what also makes it really impactful — there was no one sitting there creating it. It was someone telling that story to Eve Ensler.”
The production at Cal Poly has a cast of 17 women directed by both Moore and director/kinesiology senior Anna Acuna. Moore, who had no prior directing experience, said she had seen the production and performed in it, and finally found the opportunity to direct it as a part of her senior project.
“I was really interested in being a part of it, and I wanted to try something new,” Moore said.
The two have been working non-stop with rehearsals five days a week. However, Moore said the effort is already worthwhile.
One theme the directors, as well as the Gender Equity Center, incorporated into the Cal Poly production was informing and educating the cast members about the V-Day campaign and the reality of the issues discussed in the monologues.
Psychology senior and educator and programming assistant for the Gender Equity Center Kara Barbieri said she wanted to get involved with the play without actually acting in it, so she put together presentations for the cast addressing topics such as the history of the play, rape and relationships and sexuality as an instrument of control.
“I feel the Vagina Monologues isn’t just a play,” Barbieri said. “It’s a part of a movement, and it’s part of something bigger. I wanted them to feel like that as well.”
Barbieri said she received good responses from the dialogue.
“A lot of the women were sharing their stories, which is what I wanted,” Barbieri said. “I wanted it to bring them together and show them that its not just a monologue, it’s life.”
Moore said she and Acuna also wanted to focus on the relationships between the cast members.
“We wanted the experience to be not only about putting on this perfect production, but we also wanted them to have an experience where they come out of it with really good friends,” Moore said. “We didn’t focus just on the production, but also the relationships of the cast and their relationship to the V-Day campaign.”
Kaviani said she’s excited for the higher level of production that Cal Poly has adopted over the last few years. This, she said, helps raise more funds for the organizations.
“We like that it’s taken that step to become a real production rather than just having it in Chumash Auditorium and being really casual about it,” Kaviani said.
Kaviani also wants to assure audience members that the monologues aren’t all serious, nor are they all funny.
“It’s not solemn the whole time,” Kaviani said. “There are really serious monologues that are really impactful, but there are also hilarious ones that are just funny and you have to just laugh and have a good sense of humor about it.”
Tickets for the all-ages show are on sale for $15 at the PAC box office, by phone at 805-756-2787 and at pacslo.org. The showtime for the Friday, Saturday and Sunday night showings are 7:30 p.m.