Illustration by Louise McCune

Victoria Wills takes you inside the world of the vagina at The Vagina Monologues

I distinctly remember the first time I heard mention of The Vagina Monologues. “Vagina!?”  I inwardly exclaimed, my twelve-year old mind reeling. “As in… vaginas?” My second thought: “How do vaginas monologue?” Throughout most of my adolescence, The Vagina Monologues remained a mystery, a shadowy event silently confined to the playbills that went up every year in my neighborhood, or the compact black-covered books I saw older students reading at school.

Vaginas are scary. Twelve-year-old girls, college boys, and grown women alike shrink away from discussing them, or even saying the word. “Vagina.” In Eve Ensler’s introduction to The Vagina Monologues, she writes, “Doesn’t matter how many times you say it, it never sounds like a word you want to say.” When she interviewed over 200 women and wrote the monologues in 1994, Ensler wanted to challenge the awkward silence enveloping vaginas. She wanted to expose how women felt about their vaginas, and in some cases, how vaginas felt about their world. The result is astounding—a collection of captivating personal accounts ranging from the flirtatious to the zany to the harrowing.

Today, The Vagina Monologues are performed around the world every February in association with V-Day, an organization that seeks to raise awareness and funds to stop violence against women. Every year, monologues are left out, added, and transformed, making each performance unique to its own cast and production crew. But wherever you see The Vagina Monologues, you will not be able to escape the vagina.

This was made abundantly clear to me when I walked into the foyer of the Roone Arledge Auditorium for the Columbia-Barnard performance and confronted giant pink silk labia caressing the entrance to the seating area. As I was birthed through the flamboyant canal and assaulted with calls of “Wanna buy a chocolate vagina?” I momentarily doubted if I was ready to unveil the unspoken organ in all its mystery. But as the lights dimmed and the performance began with an all-cast dance party, I knew I was there to stay.

The evening opened with a piece written by Luanda Garcia, CC ’11. Performed by India Choquette, BC ’14, it told the agonizing story of a woman’s battle to deal with being raped on her way home. Choquette’s interpretation was passionate, fervent, at times frenetic, and yet so wrought with raw emotion that she left many audience members silently weeping with her. From there, the subject-matter became lighter, but still poignant in its sincerity. Entertaining highlights include a self-assured account of her divorce over hair by Emily Ellis, CC ’14, Barnard student Colette McIntyre’s masterful and touching account of one woman’s struggle with her male body, and a narration of how an encounter with average man showed a woman how to love her vagina, performed by talented first-time actor Jamnah Morton, CC ’13. Though occasionally shaky, each of the monologues’ acumen and sincerity sent a clear message: that vaginas are not monsters lurking in the shadows, but an important and defining part of women’s lives.

If you have a free afternoon this weekend, I encourage you to dive through the giant vagina in Roone and experience Columbia’s rendition of Ensler’s Vagina Monologues. You will laugh, you might cry, and you will definitely feel uncomfortable, but you will also challenge your own perceptions of these tiny powerful organs.  

Tickets for Sunday’s 3:00 p.m. show at Roone are available at the TIC. Tickets are $5 with CUID and $10 for general admission.