Comedienne Tina Fey probably said it best in her 2011 autobiography, Bossypants: “To this day, all I know is there are between two and four openings down there and that the setup inside looks vaguely like the Texas Longhorns logo.”
These openings and more will be discussed at Portland State’s benefit production of Eve Ensler’s wildly popular show, The Vagina Monologues, as a part of V-Day 2012.
The event, which will take place Friday, Feb. 10, and Saturday, Feb. 11, will begin at 6 p.m. with food, raffles and entertainment, which will then be followed by The Vagina Monologues production at 7 p.m. The performance is open to the public with ticket purchase.
“To me, The Vagina Monologues has always been about agency and relationships, not only with one’s body and sense of self but with others, and the experiences that can both empower and disempower our feelings of agency,” said Rhiannon Cates, assistant to the producer of the show. “Regardless of how we identify, I have always felt that our experiences with our bodies can really function to unite us in what we share while bringing awareness and solidarity through our differences.”
V-Day is a global activist movement held annually to end violence against women and girls, and is a catalyst that promotes creative events to increase awareness and raise money for the cause. According to the official V-Day website, “V-Day generates broader attention for the fight to stop violence against women and girls, including rape, battery, incest, female-genital mutilation…and sex slavery.”
Through these V-Day campaigns, volunteers and college students produce annual benefits in the form of productions, and The Vagina Monologues is the most popular.
“[The performance is going] great!” Cates said. “We have great local music, non-profits and businesses ready to share resources at the event, the cast and director are doing fantastic work, and I just can’t wait!”
Cates is a PSU freshman studying Women, Gender, Sexualities and Queer Studies through the Honors Program. She has been involved in numerous V-Day productions throughout the state.
“I will be making sure that everything goes absolutely swimmingly on the days of the events,” Cates said. “So far, we’ve had a great response throughout campus and in the community as we’ve worked to develop and promote this year’s production.”
Despite the fact that 5,800 global V-Day benefit events took place in 2011, performances are just the beginning. V-Day stages large-scale benefits and creates innovative gatherings, films and campaigns to educate and change social attitudes toward violence against women.
“V-Day allows groups to perform The Vagina Monologues free of royalties during V-Day season, which is around Valentines Day,” said Kate Shepard, the show’s director. “We utilize 90 percent of the profits for programs at PSU like the Interpersonal Violence Program through the Women’s Resource Center, and 10 percent of the profit goes to V-Day, who utilizes the money on their spotlighted issue every year.”
This year, V-Day’s spotlighted issue is about women in Haiti. The funds will provide three safe houses—each with an office of legal assistance for survivors of violence—that will be built in Cap Haitien, Fort Liberte and Port de Paix. In addition, the campaign will support four offices that will provide advocacy support for 19 community-based organizations throughout the country doing anti-violence work.
Kate Shepard, an undergraduate senior studying English and Women’s Studies, became involved with the movement when she acted in The Vagina Monologues at PSU during the past two years.
“The play is a series of monologues which are based on real-life interviews Eve Ensler conducted with women from all over the world,” Shepard said. “The issues range from sexual violence to the politics of pubic hair. They all relate to vaginas in some way.”
The Vagina Monologues was originally written by Ensler in 1996 to “celebrate the vagina.” After her casual conversations turned into more serious discussions, however, she changed her intentions from the celebration of femininity to the anti-violence movement we recognize today.
“All of the monologues deal with issues women experience but are not encouraged to speak out about,” Shepard continued. “This show is about claiming space and giving voice to women who have been, and continue to be, silenced. All of us have been silenced at some point in our lives.”
For C.J. Smith, the show’s producer, this message is accessible to everyone.
“It has always been about creating community and breaking the silence regarding violence against women,” Smith said. “I spend most of my time surrounded by Women, Gender, Sexuality Studies students and self-identified feminists but The Vagina Monologues reaches further than that.”
A junior who intends to enroll in the Bachelor of Social Work program, Smith was asked by the Women’s Resource Center to produce the event.
“Through my duties as producer, I hope to convey that Portland has a number of resources and organizations available to advocate for survivors of domestic abuse and sexual assault,” Smith said. “I believe The Vagina Monologues are about embracing your femininity while persevering against the oppression of women. I hope to convey that this ideal is possible to achieve.”
Despite the production’s ultimately feminist voice, Smith is concerned about what The Vagina Monologues leaves out.
“It is important to me to address the fact that The Vagina Monologues traditionally celebrates the cisgendered woman experience, and there are many, many more experiences that are not shared during the performance. Transgender folk, specifically, do not have a loud voice in the performance, and I am conscious of that fact 24/7,” Smith explained. “While Eve Ensler has made great strides at addressing the trans experience through additional monologues and transgendered casts, there is still a lot of work to be done in that arena.”
In any case, the cast and crew are hard at work to put on the performance, and excitement in definitely in the air.
“The show, while at times painful, is ultimately triumphant,” Shepard said. “I encourage everyone to go, even if you don’t think it is your scene. You will laugh and cry!”
Eve Ensler’s The Vagina Monologues
Friday, Feb. 10, and Saturday, Feb. 11, at 6 p.m.
Raffle, food and entertainment at 6 p.m.
Show begins at 7 p.m.
Smith Memorial Student Union Ballroom
Students/seniors $10; general admission $12
Tickets are available at PSU Box Office or at ticketmaster.com
ASL interpretation for Saturday show