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ISSUE 118 VOL 12 PUBLISHED 3/4/2005

This is what a feminist acts like

By Annie Lindquist
Contributing Writer


Friday, March 4, 2005

In Dittmann’s crowded Studio One, a chorus of St. Olaf women took the stage for “The Vagina Monologues” in celebration of all that is female. They filled the stage with hues of pink and red, wearing anything from short skirts to neckties.

The play alternated monologues written from interviews with a call-and-response within the cast, interjecting happy and not-so-happy vagina facts in between. Monologues spanned such topics such as pubic hair, genital nicknames and good and bad sexual experiences. Some were written based on one interview and others on many. The audience heard diverse voices: sex workers, old women, Iraqi women and even vaginas themselves.

Saturday's showing of “The Vagina Monologues” in Dittmann showered a large crowd with true stories from real women. The new venue shed a fresh perspective on the show, which has been performed at St. Olaf for three consecutive years.

In years past, the play has been performed in the Pause. This year, the producers and V-Day committee decided, with the support of the dance department, to present it in a different space. At the expense of selling fewer tickets and making less money, the V-Day committee’s choice to move the show into Dittmann arose from the desire to put a new spin on the play, Events Coordinator Carolyn Albert '05 said.

The environment of Studio One fit well with the subject matter of the monologues and created a greater performer-audience connection. Returning cast member Sarah Burgin '06 considered the ability to see the audience from onstage significantly different from previous years.

Not only did the change in location alter the show, but other changes made the production different from last year's. While playwright Eve Ensler does not usually change the script itself from year to year, producers may select optional monologues depending on the needs and focus of their productions. Producers chose to include one monologue, "Under the Burqa," in conjunction with the national V-Day spotlight on the women of Iraq.

Ensler did write a new monologue which premiered this year, titled "They Beat the Girl Out of My Boy. Or So They Tried," which included the transgendered community in the production. Also contributing to this effort, Gay, Lesbian or Whatever (GLOW) hosted the movie "Venus of Mars" earlier in the week.

Another element that makes the play unique each year is the conclusion, left for the cast to create. Director and Organizer April Carlson ‘05 wrote the script for this year's ending from the cast’s suggestion to include stories from St. Olaf students who have experienced sexual violence.

The 2005 international V-Day campaign benefited the women of Iraq and the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), so the cast wanted to take the opportunity to bring the production to a personal level and the issues addressed "closer to home," Albert said. The choice proved particularly poignant and preceded a call for audience members who have been affected by violence against women to stand.

The cast this year was smaller than last year's and was largely composed of new members; many of this year's performers were first-years. First-time cast member Katherine Oyster '08 commented that the cast grew from an arbitrary composition of St. Olaf students into a group of friends.

The events of V-Week and the efforts to put on the Monologues came out of collaboration between multiple organizations and individuals. Monologue Coach Lexi Herman '07 enjoyed witnessing the cast bond and become a support network to deal with the issues they addressed.

The Vagina Monologues were put on once again out of a desire to address the issue of female sexuality and violence against women and girls. Albert noted that these issues need to be addressed continually because they don't receive a lot of sustained attention. The producers agreed that sexuality, especially in a college context, is often discussed in a crude, casual way. The Monologues offered a medium to address these issues in a way that was not only funny but also validating and honoring.

The play opened up dialogue by presenting the realities and complexities of women's sexuality without making a value statement about what should and shouldn't be. Now, on the count of three: VAGINA!





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