By Christine Fusselman
Media Club Reporter
On Feb. 25, staff and students presented the third annual production of “The Vagina Monologues,” in the Capital BlueCross Theatre.
Eve Ensler, Tony Award-winning playwright, performer and activist, wrote the piece, which premiered in 1996.
According to Ensler, after what began as general conversations with friends and developed into interviews with 200 women, she wrote the play to “celebrate the vagina.”
In 1998, though, Ensler stated, “the purpose of the piece changed from a celebration of vaginas and femininity to a movement to stop violence against women.”
The play represents a great variety of women in a range of situations. It is funny, it is poignant, it may make some people in audiences uncomfortable, but audiences nearly always relate to it. It is not just for women, either, and may give clarity to men and women who consider these topics unmentionable.
“I went to my first production as an undergraduate, and I found the message of female acceptance empowering,” Melissa Wehler, dean of The School of Humanities and Sciences, said “I was emotionally moved by the stories of women — which were also stories about myself — being talked about in ways that were considered taboo. I saw women taking ownership over their bodies in a way I had never seen before.”
Activities Director Adrienne Thoman directed this year’s production and seamlessly filled in to perform a monologue at the last minute.
“Bringing ‘The Vagina Monologues’ to Central Penn College each spring is always meaningful to me,” Thoman said. “On a college campus, unfortunately, sexual assault statistics are incredibly high. Nationwide, one in five students report that they have been forced to have sexual intercourse against their will before graduation. That is awful, terrifying and heartbreaking.”
The “Vagina Monologues” was again presented as part of what Ensler coined as V-Day. According to V-Day.org:
- V-Day is a global activist movement to end violence against women and girls.
- V-Day is a catalyst that promotes creative events to increase awareness, raise money and revitalize the spirit of existing anti-violence organizations.
- V-Day generates broader attention for the fight to stop violence against women and girls, including rape, battery, incest, female genital mutilation (FGM) and sex slavery.
“This show gives us a chance to start a proactive conversation about sexual assault and the many other issues unique to women,” Thoman said, adding that she was proud of Central Penn students and staff helping bring stories of women’s experiences to light.
Wehler said she began participating in “The Vagina Monologues” as an actor and as an audience member in college because doing so seemed taboo. Now, she participates for some different reasons.
“When I was in college, … I was drawn to the taboo at that age,” Wehler explained. “Now, I participate in it at our college because I think it’s important for my students to see me transgressing social norms and rules, and how empowering it can be to do so. I also participate because I love being a part of a collective of powerful women who are not afraid to speak their truths and who help me to speak mine.”
Communications students and monologue participants Morgan Littleford and Jasmine Harvey, both 18, said, “It was fun!”
Harvey added that participating in the production helped her gain confidence in herself and her ability to speak in front of an audience.
Proceeds from this year’s event went to the YWCA Carlisle – an organization that provides support to women and girls with programming related to domestic violence and sexual assault (health and safety), empowerment and economic advancement, and racial justice and civil rights.
Editor’s note: Fusselman acted in the production.