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You want me to talk about my down there?

The Vagina Monologues, 2009

Published: March 13, 2009
Section: Arts, Etc.


Well, everybody, they’re back. No, I’m not talking about the in-laws or those pesky midterms that I keep hearing everyone moaning about around this time of the semester. What I am referring to, however, are vaginas. Yes, vaginas. Or, rather, “The Vagina Monologues”, Eve Ensler’s theater piece based on interviews she conducted with a number of women from all over the world, who cover a wide range of ages, races and experiences.

The play was put on this year, as it has been every year at Brandeis for the past 8 years, in conjunction with V-Day, a not-for-profit charity which licenses performances of the show to raise money in support of female victims of sexual abuse. To that end, by the time this article goes to press, Brandeis’ campus will have been host to a number of vagina-related events, including cookie decorating, an orgasm workshop, and a panel discussion relating to the real life Vagina Monologues of some of Brandeis’ faculty and staff.

This year’s performance of the play, like the performances of many years, was alternatively heartwarming, depressing, shocking, touching, uplifting, and disturbing, successfully accomplishing what I believe to be at least one of the play’s goals: to cover the full experience of vaginas. Whether they be heterosexual, homosexual, pansexual, shaved, hairy, in pleasure or in pain, whether they are virgins or in a concensual relationship or if they have been raped, and whether or not they have given birth, all vaginas are welcome in this play and they are to be loved and honored. This year saw some favorite monologues return while some were seen on the Shapiro stage for the first time.

The evening began, as it does most years here, with a monologue titled “Hair”, performed by Yael Rooks-Rapport. Her performance of the piece, one of the more humorous of the bunch, was tempered with the right combination of seriousness and humor that got the show off on the right foot. Rachel Copel’s reading of “The Flood”, about a 70-something woman recalling a time from her youth when, after being kissed unexpectedly by her date in his white Chevy Bel Air, she started to flood from “down there”, certainly had its funny moments, as can be expected based on the writing of this piece. However, from a theatrical point of view, it would have come across better had Copel known her lines better or, knowing that she didn’t have it all down, committed more fully to what she did know and left the rest behind.

One of the real star performances in this year’s show was Michelle Miller who performed a monologue called “The Vagina Workshop”. This particular monologue is about a woman who, though she had been comfortable with her vagina before and had experienced much of the pleasure a vagina can cause (albeit unintentionally), she had not had any positive experiences with it for long enough that she was starting to get frustrated about it, and even worried that it had stopped working. At a vagina workshop she attends, she rediscovers her vagina’s potential and her control over herself. Miller’s performance of the piece, probably the longest single monologue in the set, was brilliant. She was not only able to bring convincing life to this woman’s plight but also to stay present in each moment of the piece, creating an arc that was believable and heartfelt.

The most powerful piece of the evening, whose title is not printed in the program, was performed by six of the women in the cast about a group of Japanese pleasure women during World War II. Now all in their late 70’s through early 90’s, these women still remember the pains and tortures they went through over 60 years ago. Much of what they went through is too graphic for print here, but these women certainly went through serious harm for the work they were forced into. This monologue was a new one for the Brandeis stage and, having seen it last night, I can understand why. These women have yet to be acknowledged, or apologized to, for their pain and sacrifice by the Japanese government – something they have been asking every day for a long while.

Near the end of this year’s show, as the Brandeis Vagina Club’s show has done every year, the show neared its end with a monologue titled “The Woman Who Loved to Make Vaginas Happy”. This monologue is most often performed by a woman with a big personality and this year’s performer was no exception. As Kaamila Mohamed strutted onto the stage, you could tell just by looking at her, hair teased out large and in charge, that something special was about to happen. She started off the monologue innocently enough, but by the end was giving us her interpretations of the various moans she had experienced in her illustrious career as a sex worker.

So, what is this show about? Well, it’s about many things. It’s about vaginas, for sure, but it’s about much more than that. It’s about empowering women, it’s about raising awareness of the full experience of real vaginas and the women who own them, and sometimes, it’s just about having fun.

“The Vagina Monologues” by Eve Ensler; directed and coordinated by Ashley Sauerhof and Amanda DiSanto; designed and produced through the collaboration of the members of Brandeis University’s Vagina Club and V-Day 2009 College Campaign. March 6-7, 2009 at the Carl J. Shapiro Theater, 415 South Street, Waltham MA 02453. Run time 100 minutes with no intermission.