When it comes to women’s relationships with their bodies, Eve Ensler has never been afraid to ask the tough questions.
Many of us don’t give our vaginas much thought at all, much less wonder what they would say if they could talk or what they would wear if they got dressed. But Ensler encourages all women to consider these questions and many more in her internationally renowned reading theater play, The Vagina Monologues, to be performed by Mills students and staff members in February.
In an interview several years ago, Ensler said that she wrote her play to give other women a safe space to talk about their bodies, and to help them learn to love their whole selves in spite of “a patriarchal culture [that] is waging war on vaginas.” This is something the Division of Student Life hopes to provide for Mills students by bringing the play to campus.
“[We] want [Mills] women to be really comfortable in their bodies, to really love and appreciate their body and not feel like any part of it is taboo,” said Mandy Benson, assistant director of Student Activities and the play’s producer. “And we want to raise consciousness around violence against women, and empower Mills students to lead the way in keeping women safe.”
The cast, a diverse group of 14 women who range in age from late teens to late 40s, will work under the direction of Services for Students with Disabilities Director Jess Miller, who holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in theater, and said she is thrilled at the opportunity to put her love of the dramatic arts into practice.
“Working with women in theater, or with people with disabilities in theater, is my first love,” Miller said. “I wanted to do something theater-oriented since I got to Mills three years ago.”
Miller and Benson agree that casting for the play was an incredibly difficult process, with almost 30 women showing up to audition.
“The response was amazing,” Benson said. “It really speaks to the power of The Vagina Monologues and how willing people are to come together to talk about their vaginas and make a difference in the world.”
Junior Suki Bourquin was thrilled to be cast as “the angry vagina lady” because, she said, she can identify with the monologue “My Angry Vagina.”
“I saw it at my previous college where I was doing women’s studies, and I was blown away,” she said. “I related to the body shame, shame about sexuality, and sexual abuse that comes out in all the women’s stories.”
“My Angry Vagina” is a several-page diatribe about the common injustices inflicted on vaginas, including douches, tampons, and the tools used at OB-GYN visits. It poses questions about why no-one ever tries to think of ways to comfort and care for the vagina, and by extension the woman herself, but only comes up with ways to torture it. The monologue was one of the most contested pieces at the Mills auditions.
“I was so happy I got the angry vagina monologue, because so many people wanted that part,” Bourquin said. “I guess a lot of people have angry vaginas. Mine just must have been the angriest.”
Other monologues selected for the Mills performance include “My Vagina Was My Village,” which will be performed by senior Loke Davis, and “The Flood,” which DSL Administrative Assistant Amy Rosan Brown will deliver.
Performances are currently scheduled for Feb. 12 at 5:00 p.m. and Feb. 13 at noon in the Fine Arts Annex. Miller plans to send out a call for crew, publicity, and other necessary assistance before the end of the semester.