Nineteen years ago, Eve Ensler’s creation, “The Vagina Monologues,” started from a conversation with a close friend over womanly dilemmas. As the subject switched to vaginas, her friend’s unfavorable outlook on her lady parts was quite peculiar and made Ensler evaluate how she felt about her own. This revelation made her wonder how women thought of their vaginas, and their personal testimonies would channel a perspective on discussing womanhood and sexuality.
“I started asking friends. What they said was so surprising and disturbing, I started writing it down,” Ensler said in an interview with The Guardian. “One woman said she’d had such a bad sexual experience when she was a girl that she’d decided never to have sex again. I started to think there could be a play in this. So I spoke to hundreds of women of all ages and races, and wrote a series of fictional monologues inspired by the things I heard.”
The Eastern Michigan University Women’s Resource Center will present its 12th annual production of “The Vagina Monologues” at the Student Center Auditorium on Feb. 7, 8 and 9 at 8 p.m. Over the years EMU has successfully donated over $100,000 to First Step and the Safe House Center in Ann Arbor in celebration of V-Day, a global movement against rape and domestic violence on Feb. 14 that urges women to rise, walk out and demand the end of violence worldwide.
Since the first show in 1996, “The Vagina Monologues” has become a movement of female empowerment and a vehicle to help stop global domestic violence towards women and girls. Seventeen years later, through the controversy of addressing taboo issues unapologetically and making the public take notice, women around the world are taking a stand.
Audiences will be entertained with classic monologues such as “My Angry Vagina,” “They Beat the Girl Out of My Boy,” “Reclaiming Cunt” and “The Flood.”
Jenessa Loomis, an EMU senior and event coordinator from the Women’s Resource Center, who will be performing “Because He Liked to Look at It,” said she believes there are meaningful layers to this play and people should rid themselves of preconceived notions of what it’s about.
“There are so many people that don’t know what it’s about, and I think people are afraid and I think it’s something we shouldn’t be afraid of,” Loomis said. “Women are everywhere and we need to accept and embrace that, and women go through many things and everyone has their own story. We’re afraid of this and I think that’s why it’s so important, so that way we can normalize it and accept it and realize that this is happening. We can’t sweep this under the rug; there’s violence against women happening every day.”
Jess Klein, program coordinator at EMU’s Women’s Resource Center, has been a part of EMU productions of “The Vagina Monologues” since 2003, and this will be her bittersweet last time of being involved in this incredible play at EMU.
“It’s just really important. It’s just so important and the fact that [Ensler] opens up the rights so that people all over the world can do this,” Klein said.
Last year Ensler was present at the protest on the Capitol steps in Lansing, where the monologues were performed in response to Michigan State Rep. Lisa Brown, D-West Bloomfield, being banned from the House chamber for saying the word vagina.
“I was there. It was awesome,” Klein said with a smile. “I had a sticker over my face that said ‘My Vagina is Angry’ and I wore a vagina shirt. There’s no word to describe what that was like, it was incredible.”
To mark the end of a great run at EMU, Klein and her younger sister will be performing Ensler’s piece entitled “Rising,” which she described as emotional and sentimental.
Klein has witnessed first-hand the impact this play has had on audiences and performers throughout the years and the experience has been extraordinary.
“Seeing mothers come up to thank you and even thanking the volunteers … it’s also amazing to see the men that come and they’re like ‘Wow I had no idea, this changed my life,’” Klein said. “But to also hear the cast when they say, ‘I want to leave this room a different person or a stronger woman than I am now,’ and I think that’s great.”
Tickets are $14, and can be purchased at www.EMUtix.com, the Student Center Box Office, Quirk Box Office or the Convocation Center.
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