“The Vagina Monologues” to return to Sonoma State

STAR // Sara Wildman

First came Adam, then Eve. Recent politics, as per usual, take interpretive words literal, placing certain rights above others. Continual abuse and lack of a voice prompted a playwright to highlight the everyday struggles women endure; “for when you rape, beat, maim, mutilate, burn, bury and terrorize women, you destroy the essential life energy on the planet,” said Eve Ensler, writer of “The Vagina Monologues.”

Varying in length, “The Vagina Monologues” are a collection of 21 monologues (ten intro pieces weaved between 11 longer pieces) which focus on the unique and relatable conditions of femininity; all whose themes center around women empowerment. Finished in 1996, Ensler developed the script using women’s intuition and personal testimonies collected through interviews of over 200 women. Dealing with sex, relationships and violence, the play dives into the spectrum of womanhood from the wonderful time that is puberty, with all the joy and hair it brings, to childbearing, husband “pleasing” and full body exploration of womanhood. Between the honest, partly-comedic relief pieces, sexual violence and suppression awareness is represented through the remaining monologues. 

Presented at Sonoma State for over 15 years, the production, held in the Cooperage next to the Sauvignon dorms, is student ran. It’s directed by cast veteran and Senior Alix Parkhurst. “Each piece in the show embodies the female experience of all identities of women. There are pieces that give light to what it means to be a lesbian woman, trans woman, woman of color, and beyond,” said Parkhurst, whose upcoming production will be her second as a Seawolf. Parkhurst performed a monologue titled “The Flood” in 2016.  

“That’s what makes the the show beautiful,” said Parkhurst. “It gives women of every identity a platform to share their unique experiences.”

Performed every February countrywide, Ensler created V-Day, a movement which works to end violence against women. The “V” stands for victory, valentine and vagina, according to Ensler. She and her organization believe “by focusing the benefit performances during [February] we maximize the impact,” according to the organization’s website. 

“All of the proceeds go to Varity, Sonoma County’s only rape crisis center,” said Junior Hana O’Connor.  O’Connor participated in last Spring’s production as a member of a group piece titled “List.”

Whether profits come from ticket sales or merchandise offered during the show, it all will directly go to the center located in Santa Rosa. An array of shirts, buttons and sweet treats will be available for purchase during the show.

“The production of the show is a large political statement. It aims to reclaim ownership of what it means to be a woman, an identity that has been heavily debated in the political arena, especially in relation to the recent election and harmful glorification of sexual assault,” said Parkhurst. “By performing in the show, being involved in itsproduction and seeing the show, you are giving women their voice, ownership over their body and spirit, supporting and amplifying the voices of women that are too often silenced by policy.”

The 58 person cast and crew works year round preparing for the two hour spring production through meetings, tabeling, rehearsals and other general play preparation. 

“Meetings are mandatory if you want a spot in the show,” said junior and returnee Simrit Jawanda. “But if you don’t want a monologue you can be a backstage babe and be a stagehand.”

The roles of “backstage babes” includes lighting, sets and program creating. Taking the stage can be nerve wracking, but the babes constant movement and reassurance for the performers keep the play running smoothly.  

“They are the backbone of the show,” said Jawanda. “When we’re doing the monologues, they’re doing everything else. It’s crazy.”

For students who wish to participate in next spring’s production, sign ups are available at each show or through cast members. 

“If you are at all skeptical of the performance, push yourself to see it anyway,” said Parkhurst. “It is enlightening, laugh-out-loud funny, at times sorrowful, but overall a performance that anyone that knows a woman, or identifies as one, will learn from.”

“I can definitely say [participating in the monologues] was a highlight of my college experience and has shaped me into who I am now,” said O’Connor.

Ticket sales begin this week online and through cast members at their table outside of the student center during weekday afternoons. Student fees are $5 with ID, $10 for faculty, and $15 for general admission. Shows run from Feb. 24 through Feb. 26 at 7:30 p.m. on Feb. 24 and Feb. 25, and a matinee show onFeb. 26 at 2 p.m.