In its 18th consecutive year at DePaul University, The Vagina Monologues, an episodic play originally written in 1994 by playwright Eve Ensler, premiered this past Friday and ran until Sunday at the university’s Lincoln Park Student Center.
The play consists of a varying number of monologues performed by a number of women, that detail the different aspects of womanhood and the feminine experience. From subject matters that include sex and love, menstruation and orgasms, rape and sexual harassment, the overall theme of the performances represent the vagina as a tool of female empowerment in a society backed upon gender inequality.
The proceeds from the show were donated to beneficiaries that deal with preventing sexual assault, including “A Long Walk Home,” “Rape Victim Advocates” and “Take Back the Halls.”
For Julie Peacock, one of the directors of the show, the goal of The Vagina Monologues was not only to raise money for the beneficiaries but provide a sense of empowerment for all females in the room.
“The Vagina Monologues has impacted, first of all, by giving me a sense of empowerment. That’s kind of the goal of the show, other than raising money for the beneficiaries, so it’s always nice to know it works, if not for everyone then at least for me,” Peacock said. “The second and more important way it has impacted me is that it introduced me to so many dedicated people who really help me grow.”
As co-director of the show, along with Charia McDonald, Peacock’s job not only included finding the beneficiaries and sponsors for the event, but also finding a cast of women to perform.
“To find participants, we always just do a few days of open auditions. Charia and I sat in a room and anyone who wanted to audition was able to come in and audition,” Peacock said. “The process in putting together this production was a long one. We did casting in early November, rehearsals every Saturday of January, a 6-hour Dress Rehearsal last weekend, and then finally the show this weekend.”
Christian Borkey, one of the performers of the show, wasn’t entirely sure what exactly The Vagina Monologues were when she auditioned in the fall.
“I found out about the production through a Facebook event, and I decided I’d audition. I had no idea what the show was even about, I had only heard it through like references in other media – specifically, a “Family Guy” cutaway,” said Borkey. “Anyway I auditioned and they liked me, and that was that.”
The play was compiled of both original monologues by Eve Ensler and monologues written by DePaul performers that detail their personal experiences of being a woman.
“We were either assigned a monologue by the directors or told to write our own monologue. I was assigned “Cunt” (originally written by Eve Ensler),” said Borkey. “I guess I just give off that energy.”
Easily one of the most animated and aggressive performances of the night, Borkey begins it by screaming “cunt” from the audience and eventually making everyone in the room scream it with her in attempt to reclaim the word from all negative connotations.
“I’ve never been in such a politically charged show wherein our speech is an act of political resistance, so that’s cool,” said Borkey. “I hope the audience comes away with a greater appreciation for vaginas and for their voices.”
Other personal monologues of the night included one by Jireh L. Drake, who details a powerful and important letter to her niece who is only child though Drake is fearful for how the world will treat because she is black female.
Though the most memorable personal monologue of the show was by Adrian Fraser, who passed away last Wednesday, just two days before opening night.
With his name and performance still freshly printed in the play’s booklet, performer Molly Murrary detailed that his monologue would not be performed by any of the cast members due to not being able to relate to the subjects within it. Instead the monologue was posted outside the doors of the room The Vagina Monologues were performed in, and the show itself was dedicated in his honor.
“Some boys have vaginas. Get over it,” Murray said, reading a single line from Fraser’s monologue that the cast thought he’d want the audience to hear.
“I’ve known Adrian since I was 13, and we both ended up here at DePaul. His monologue was so poignant and beautiful and heart wrenching,” said Borkey. “He told me that he was so proud of my monologue, and I knew that performing it all-out was the best option. I think everyone else in the cast knew that too, and they were all very affected by his death despite knowing him for such a short period of time.”
“He was just that great.”
And while last weekend’s production was struck by the unexpected news of the death of a cast member just days before its premiere date, the enlightening, passionate and important performances by the women of “The Vagina Monologues” served not only as a dedication to one’s life, but a remembrance to how compelling a single voice could be. For the production of the show, each monologue and every performance on stage does not serve to empower vaginas and womanhood, but to merely recognize and anchor the already existing potential and embodiment of individuality every woman has.
“There are a couple things I want the audience to take away. The first would be how important their voices are. Sometimes just speaking out can be an act of resistance in and of itself,” said Peacock. “The second would be a sense of community. DePaul can feel very fragmented at times, and I hope that people see all these different individuals with varying identities know that even though you may not know everyone around you, it doesn’t mean they aren’t rooting for you.”