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ISSUE 119 VOL 12 PUBLISHED 3/3/2006

'Olaf Monologues' gets personal

By Megan Sutherland
Staff Writer

Friday, March 3, 2006

The yearly St. Olaf production of Eve Ensler's “The Vagina Monologues” made its return last week, but this year, in addition to Ensler's play, several St. Olaf students penned their own monologues for a spin-off dubbed “The St. Olaf Monologues. “

Why the need for an extra dose of vagina-celebrating, sexually liberating, confessional discourse?

“Every year around V-week I hear excuses from students for not going to ‘The Vagina Monologues,’” Emily Dahl '06 said. “[They say that] they can't relate to them or that these stories are somehow not important to students because they weren't written by other students.”

In response to these sentiments, Dahl decided to organize an alternative production consisting of monologues, poetry, songs, a drum group and excerpts from a student-written play, "Blur," by Meg Haley '06.

"I wanted to provide a safe place for women to share these stories, to let other women know that they don't have to hide anymore,” Dahl said. “I wanted the St. Olaf community to see that women's issues are alive and need attention.”

One way to show that even St. Olaf is not immune from the problem of physical and mental abuse, sexual assault, and body image issues was to have St. Olaf women write down their own experiences with these issues.

"I got involved [in ‘The St. Olaf Monologues’] because I was in Eve Ensler's ‘The Vagina Monologues,’ performance,” performer and contributor Kate Dietrick '06 said. “But I still wanted to be involved with V-Week in different ways. I thought the idea of a local, St. Olaf Vagina Monologues piece was fabulous. Sometimes for things to hit home more, audience members need to hear stories from the women they actually happened to.”

Dietrick began the evening by talking about her experience studying in England, where she found women's studies to be almost unheard of and the term "feminist" a label to which few would readily admit.

Elsa Marty '07 talked about her (and her vagina's) love of traveling and how these travels have shown her the violence women face in other cultures, while Katie Harris ‘06 and Lucas Paine ‘06 sang a song about mothers, and Haley Wender '07 performed a narrative written by Claire Kelly '06 about receiving unwanted advances while studying in Russia.

Another part of Ensler's “Monologues” that Dahl wanted to dispel was the stereotype that the “Monologues” are anti-male. While the “Monologues” certainly do not intend to portray men in a negative light, part of talking about female sexuality requires that issues concerning sexual assault, abuse and gender discrimination be addressed.

“The St. Olaf Monologues” did include stories of unwanted sexual encounters, domestic violence and emotional abuse, but also tried to strike a balance by inviting men to join the struggle against these problems.

Jared Wall '06 captured this in the poem he wrote, mirroring Allen Ginsberg's epic poem “Howl,” beginning his poem with the words, "I saw the best vaginas of my generation destroyed by madness, starving, hysterical naked."

Like the original “Monologues,” a balance was struck between the serious and humorous. Included among the more lighthearted performances was the poem "Ode to Boobs" by Lindsey Myers '08, as well as a tongue-in-cheek Catholic-style confession about unrestrained and unabashed love of masturbation (even when the writer's roommate returned unexpectedly).

Other issues addressed included eating disorders, lesbianism, the role of mothers and the pressure felt by many women to constantly sacrifice their own wants and needs for others.

The end of Dietrick's monologue summed up the evening's sentiments best, when she told the audience, "Whether or not you too have stories about what it was like as a women traveling abroad or if you simply have a story about growing up the only girl in a family of boys, you have a story. You have a voice. Use it. Tell your own true story."

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