“One in three women on the planet will be raped or beaten in her lifetime. One billion women violated is an atrocity; one billion women dancing is a revolution,” reads the 1 Billion Rising website.
In the days leading to V-Day’s 15th anniversary on Feb. 14, activists, organizations and supporters worldwide are rising to demand an end to the domestic violence that has damaged lives and silenced many permanently. Eve Ensler’s unconventional approach to addressing taboo subjects so unapologetically has ignited a universal movement. Along this journey, “The Vagina Monologues” has created a moment of clarity and self-discovery as well as sparked controversy with society for being too profane, often being banned and protested from being held on college campuses.
In a 2010 article from the Daily Sundial, the Catholic Church protested the play at the California State University with biblical images and praying the rosary. Guy Coulombre, a member of the male parishioners, described it as a “lewd activist feminist play” and said it “encourages deviant lifestyles through deviant sexual practices through verbal pornography.”
Scratch beyond the name and so-called preconceived notions, and you’ll find layers of messages that connect women through issues and subjects that often goes unmentioned. It has and continues to change perspectives, challenge existing barriers and most importantly, make you take notice.
The 12th annual production of “The Vagina Monologues” at Eastern Michigan University stood proudly within the One Billion Rising movement to a high-energized audience, selling out all three shows. With chocolate vagina pops in hand, the blended audience of men and women laughed, cheered and sat in silence absorbing the severity of the delivery of monologues such as “My Vagina Was My Village,” performed by EMU student Amber Leigh Marie Hickman.
“It’s amazing,” director Jess Lohmann said. “There’s no other way to describe it. Being able to come onstage and see a full house every single night blows my mind every year. There are some really sad pieces in the show, and I’ve seen people come up and didn’t even have to say anything but they took the actress’s hand and said ‘Thank you.’ To me, that’s what this show is about.”
The play opened on a high note with the hilarious “Introduction” by EMU students Juli Klein, Caprisha Curry and Barbara Hubbard, whose amazing chemistry immediately won the crowd over. Namedropping a series of over-the-top vagina nicknames and Curry sliding across the stage to see her lady parts, flashlight, mirror and all was the cherry on top; no pun intended.
There was “My Angry Vagina,” that oh-so-classic rant of the injustices a woman’s vagina is subjected to: pap smears and tampons and douches, oh my! EMU students Dayatra West, Emily Keyes, Nicole Carter and Joanne Robertson served a “Sex In The City” feel, and as the cocktails flowed, the rants became more interesting and had the audience hysterical, especially with one request of having
underwear with a built-in tickler.
“Women would be coming all day. Coming in the supermarket!”
“Cleanup on aisle five.”
“Reclaiming Cunt,” performed by EMU student Caiden Droscha, was brilliant. Her overly inappropriate excitement was evident as she bounced and pranced across the stage, breaking down each letter with bliss like an open love letter and urging the crowd to share her enthusiasm, chanting the C-word proudly.
Other stories included “The Flood,” “The Little Coochi Snorcher That Could” and “Because He Liked to Look at It.”
Joanne Roberston, who performed “I Was There in the Room,” was initially against participating in the past due to her Christian beliefs. As a theater major at the University of Detroit Mercy, the show was mandatory to pass her class and from that moment on she was hooked.
“I was so thankful that I could be a part of something so big and so needed that just gives a voice to people who don’t have voices,” Robertson said. “It addresses issues that need to be addressed. It addresses issues that affect every country, every community, every person in the world; because chances are somebody we all know has been touched in the wrong way through violence or sexual assault.”
Adrienne Ayers, who performed “The Vagina Workshop,” was also unsure about participating but decided to take a chance—a decision she’s happy with.
“My first time hearing about it was last year, and I was going to audition but I got afraid once I read the script … it was really just out there and it was going to put me outside my comfort zone,” Ayers said. “Being around all these women and seeing them do it made me realize that it’s okay to push myself and to take it there.”
The end of the production was touching and sentimental, with the screening of the “One Billion Rising” short film. EMU Women’s Center Program Co-ordinator Jess Klein became visibly emotional, giving an incredibly heartfelt speech as she announced the end of her career at EMU, hopes for gay rights in our country and the power we all possess.
“I am rising because I believe in the power of one,” Klein said.” I believe we can end this because we are ultimately the ones that created this. White was not born superior to black. Straight was not born superior to gay and men were not born superior to women. We created superiority.”
Just as they hoped, the seed had been planted with this message that visibly moved members of the audience, especially the men, who raised their index finger in the air with the actresses on stage.
Tony Maceratini thoroughly enjoyed The Vagina Workshop, with the focus on personal discovery standing out to him the most.
“There were also a lot of things that I didn’t realize went on,” Maceratini said.” I never realized how unfamiliar women could be with their own bodies.”
Danielle Doxie-Caltx, who came for her birthday, is a fan and enjoys how non-discriminatory it is. She explained why she brought her friend Maceratini.
“I love how, for me, it’s like every woman, shape and size get to be in this play because it’s all about all of us,” she explained. “Every man I’ve dated I’ve brought to see something like this. I think it’s important for men to see this ’cause we get it. We’re the choir.”
Over the past 12 years, EMU has donated over $100,000 to First Step and Safe House Center in Washtenaw County. Ten percent of ticket sales will benefit V-Day.
Starting Monday, V-Day events will be held on campus, including a flash mob choreographed by Debbie Allen. For a list scheduled of events, go to www.emich.edu/wcen/programs.
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