CHADRON – The decision made a year ago that the time was right for the Chadron State College Theatre Department to stage Eve Ensler’s groundbreaking feminist play “The Vagina Monologues,” has been justified by recent events, according to Professor Roger Mays, who is directing the production that opens Thursday, Feb. 22 in the Black Box Theatre in Memorial Hall.
“I had been thinking about doing it for quite some time,” Mays said. “It is a bit pushy to do, but I decided to do it the day after President Trump’s inauguration, when the women marched on Washington. I went ‘Now is the time because it’s pertinent and it’s possible.’”
“The Vagina Monologues’” cast includes: Johanna Goff, Autumn Hartwig, Brittney Peters, Alyssa Jensen, Kaitlynn Hessler, Mickenzi Loyd, Taylor Thies, Hannah Smith, Jessica Lotierzo, Shanie Hollenbeck, Jennaya Hill, Laurin Bronson, and Courtney Smith.
The play is intended for mature audiences. Performances are Feb. 22, 23 and 24 at 7:30 p.m. and Feb. 25 at 2 p.m. Tickets are available by calling the CSC box office at 308-432-6207 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
The recent spate of sexual abuse allegations involving high profile men in arts, entertainment, finance and government, and the rise of the Me Too movement have shown the 20-year-old play’s continued relevance, Mays said.
“Now it’s what I think is a national conversation. I’m hoping that audiences will say ‘I can accept it more readily now,’” he said.
Ensler wrote the first draft of the play in 1995, using interviews she conducted with 200 women about their views on relationships, sex, violence against women and body image. She first performed it as a one-woman, off-Broadway show the following year. Since then the play has been staged thousands of times around the world, turned into an HBO TV show, and used to launch V-Day, a global, non-profit movement that raises money for groups working to end violence against women and girls.
The title of the play, and its recurring theme of the vagina as a tool of female empowerment, can make people uncomfortable, but that is part of the point, according to Mays.
“We don’t get uncomfortable when we say ankle or nose,” he said. “There does seem to be a stigma around that (word) and as a result it depresses a lot of women in that they don’t want to talk about it.”
Written as a series of speeches by women of different ages and ethnicities, the play has evolved over time through the addition of new monologues to highlight current issues affecting women around the world. Mays said the version his cast of 13 CSC students is presenting includes nine formal monologues along with introductions and transitions.
The performance will take place in the Black Box Theatre with a minimal stage setting.
“The audience will be on all sides. (The actors’) proximity to people is quite close,” he said. “It’s an intimate subject in an intimate setting.”
Mays said some of the young women who signed up to be part of the cast have told him they initially had reservations, but now have become enthusiastic about the play.
“It took them a little while to get used to the idea … but now they are getting it,” he said.
Because most of the monologues are from the perspective of women who are older than his college-age cast, the play has been a good learning experience for students, said Mays.
“They may not have had all of those experiences,” he said. “That’s the beauty of theatre. It allows you to look at the world through somebody else’s eyes.”
Audience members can also expect to gain a new perspective from the play, according to Mays.
“Ensler is that clever kind of writer who finds the humor and the humanity and the anger and the frustration and makes us think about it probably in a way that we never have,” he said. “The spirit of the show is to say ‘Let’s look at it through the female lens.’”