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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Vagina Fest receives a standing ovation

Published: March 11, 2005
Section: Arts, Etc.

Last weekend, Eve Enslers The Vagina Monologues was performed in Spingolds Mainstage Theatre to cap this years Brandeis Universiy VaginaFest. This is the fourth consecutive year that The Vagina Monologues has been performed at Brandeis, and judging from the enthusiastic reception it received from the audience, this is far from the last.

The show featured a number of strong performances, many of which were in the comedic genre. Barri Yanowitz 06 was brilliant in her rendition of The Woman Who Loved to Make Vaginas Happy. She had much of the audience rolling in the aisles with her impressions of the Jewish moan and the Irish Catholic moan, and anyone who can reenact the surprise triple orgasm moan on stage must have serious talent. Rachel Rausch 05 was equally ingenious in her alliteration-heavy exploration of the word cunt. She went letter by letter, associating an endless series of words with each, gradually building in intensity. This, combined with a few well-placed moans, gave her performance a truly orgasmic feel. Claudia Martinez 07 brought wonderful attitude to My Angry Vagina. The majority of the monologue borders on stand-up comedy, and her head movements and vocal inflections effectively conveyed her anger at the way her vagina is treated. In The Vagina Workshop, Mira Abramsohn 05 portrayed a woman who was out of touch with her vagina, and earned a huge ovation with her panic attack over thinking that she had lost her clitoris.

The most moving segment of the production, however, may very well have been director Angela Marchant 07 in her performance of Under the Burqa, an exploration of the oppression of women in the Middle East. She portrayed an overall sense of hopelessness with a range of emotions, from harsh screams of desperate anger to gentle, calm, despairing sarcasm. She also was a stunning success at bringing out the poetry of the textthe word imagine is used repeatedly to start new lines of thought, and her gradual emotional build in the way she hit the world imagine allowed her to carry the audience further and further into her dark, hopeless world. Rio May del Rosario 06 was just as powerful in her monologue as a Bosnian refugee who was systematically raped as a tactic of the governments genocidal program. She was able to make her voice jump back and forth between the gentle, innocent tone of a young virgin girl and the range of emotions she suffers afterwardspain, anger and, ultimately, a feeling of weak hopelessness. Dina Maron 08 displayed impressive variety in The Little Coochie Snorcher That Could, ranging from a sweet innocent child voice, to a trembling description of the trauma of being raped at age 10, to an ultimate recovery after a lesbian affair at age 16.

The arrangement of the entire cast onstage throughout the show increased the sense of feminine strength that this show radiates. Typically, one woman would be spotlighted on the stage, and the other twenty-three would intently focus their attention on the speaker and occasionally even join in on the audiences laughter. The effect from the audience standpoint was a feeling of unity, that although only one person or a few people are talking, everyone is in this together.

A more interesting decision was to give the actresses note cards to bring out with them and use during their performances. When I read this in the directors notes before the show, I was a little skeptical, but I ultimately did not find that it detracted from the performance. If I had not read in the program that they had note cards, I am not sure I would have even noticed until Rachel Rausch threw hers into the audience at the climax of her monologue about the word cunt. This effective use of the note cards is a just another credit to the incredible group of performers.

After the show, head coordinator Alyson Sachs 06, production coordinator/director Angela Marchant, and communications coordinator Claudia Martinez were nice enough to spare a few minutes to talk to me about the cast. The first word was Unbelievable, uttered in perfect unison by Marchant and Sachs. The three then discussed how important cast diversity was, and how the production had brought together people who probably would have never gotten to know each other in four years at Brandeis otherwise.

Marchant was kind enough to explain the rehearsal process to me. She said they worked two nights each week. The girls would each do some individual work on their monologues, then the whole cast would come together, everyone would perform, and the rest of the cast would critique the work. Sachs could not talk enough about how crucial this bonding was to the show, asserting, We couldnt tell where we ended and the show began.

Another aspect that had piqued my curiosity was the beautiful set, also designed by Marchant. It was simple and classy, with white chairs, stools, and sofa on a black stage with a black drop and white spheres hanging vertically from the ceiling. It had a true celebratory feel to it, which is perfect for both the closing event of VaginaFest and a play that is at heart a celebration of womanhood. The hanging white spheres, as Marchant explained to me after the show, were inspired by vertically suspended cisterns she saw in Istanbul over winter break, and she thought it would be a nice way to mix another culture into the production.

As a freshman seeing the show for the first time, it is easy to see why it has become an annual event: Eve Enslers brilliant script helps attract some of Brandeiss finest female performers, who in turn deliver electric performances that thrill the audience and help whet its appetite for the next years production. I know I will be sitting in the Spingold Mainstage audience next year when VaginaFest rolls around again, but next years cast certainly has a tall order if they hope to top this years production.