CMU School of Drama

Thursday, February 16, 2017

V-Day in TrumpLand: Exploring the Relevance of “The Vagina Monologues”

THE INTERVAL: In 1996, activist, performer and writer Eve Ensler debuted her play The Vagina Monologues in the basement of the West Village’s Cornelia Street Café. The show became a major hit, and Ensler used her success to combat violence against women on an international scale. In 1998, she created V-Day, “a global activist movement to end violence against women and girls,” and, to celebrate V-Day’s 15th anniversary in 2013, she founded 1 Billion Rising, “the biggest mass action to end violence against women in human history.” As part of the V-Day movement, Ensler allows college and community theatre productions of The Vagina Monologues to be licensed for free during the month of February, with the understanding that proceeds from these benefits will be donated to charitable organizations aligned with V-Day’s mission.


Angel Zhou said...

In a somewhat recent episode of “The Daily Show”, Hasan Minhaj was discussing the airport protests against Trump’s ban, or something similar. During this discussion, Minhaj showed a surprising amount of happiness with regards to Muslim treatment in America, and his reasoning was that the fact that Trump has been so polarizing and hateful has in turn caused a wide-scale movement in support of Muslim people. Muslims were praying in the airport while people cheered on, and Minhaj was touched by the outpouring of support that would not have existed if it hadn’t been for Trump’s presidency.

This article reminds me of Minhaj’s experience. Because Trump is so openly misogynistic, he has caused an increase of activism for women’s rights – for example, a spike in interest to produce The Vagina Monologues, as described by the article. I personally have never heard of the play, and it took me a little bit to realize that “V-Day” meant Valentine’s Day (at least, I believe it does – the article just said that Eve Ensler created the day, but gave no insight into when the day is). However, it is heartwarming, in a way, to see so many people showing their protest through a renewed interest in this play. This and the airport story above are two indications of the light that has shone through the chaos of Trump’s presidency – despite his controversial and terrifying actions and opinions, he has brought out the best in some American citizens (and the worst in others).

Sarah Boyle said...

I agree with Angel that there is a silver lining to Trump being so polarizing (to put it kindly). Some people now feel that they can say anything they want, because he had made racist, sexist, and false comments normal. But that has prompted a lot of other people who wouldn’t ordinarily speak up or feel the need to get involved to do something and that can be a pretty beautiful thing. I love that playwright makes the rights to the Vagina Monologues free in February provided that profits are donated. She has to make some money, but she also clearly believes in the message and power of her play enough to provide an incentive, or the possibility, for lots of groups to put it on. I have a lot of respect for her. I have heard about this play before, but I have only seen the small section a friend of mine used for an audition. After reading this article, I am going to have to make it a point to see or read this play.

Sasha Schwartz said...

It’s very cool to see how theater is continuing to combat bigotry in the face of such a horrific election season and outcome (and continuing outcomes). I will never forget sitting in my friend’s living room that night, watching all of our moods turn from hopeful and jovial to tear- stricken and disbelieving as Pennsylvania turned red. Sitting with a group of strong and powerful female artists while watching a sexually predatory assaulter and rape culture- perpetuating man take the win was a particularly depressing experience. I definitely agree that there has been a definite shift felt in how we have been approaching our art and classwork since the election. Suddenly even our foundations of drama and special topics discussions about female and LGBT playwrights/ stories seem more important now than ever. It’s so true that we are living in the midst of a revolution, and that artists have the responsibility to activate, engage, and question. I think that The Vagina Monologues is a perfect example of what our art needs to be in order to subvert people’s opinions and views of what is happening right now. I think another important question right now is how we get people who might not already be like-minded in those audience seats, so we don’t get stuck in a cycle of preaching to the choir.

Taylor Steck said...

If there's is anything positive to have come out of this agonizing and frankly alarming election, it would be the new wave of feminism and the spark of new art being created in reaction to their outrage. As a woman in this industry it is extremely empowering to be a part of a community and an industry like this in the political and social climate that we are facing right now. The Vagina Monologues are more relevant now to today than it was before, and I'm glad to see its resurgence in popularity. However, the article did mention it's possible antiquity as well as it's exclusion of trans women. It did confirm that those issues were resolved but glossed over exactly how. Were there any rewrites by the author? Or are people more open in their casting for this piece? What's the point in feminism if it isn't going to be fighting for and supporting all women? Even the name of the play itself, "The Vagina Monologues" already takes a step towards exclusivity for trans women, even if this exclusion wasn't in the playwright's intentions. Feminism is not only important now, but perhaps more importantly intersectional feminism and the open speech regarding sexual assault in our communities, making The Vagina Monologues more relevant than ever in this new Trump society.

Zak Biggins said...

I agree wholeheartedly with taylor and the other commenters on this article. I think it is unfortunate that our country elected a man with hatred and blatant sexism defining his policy. However, if anything good came from this election was the mass support and vocalizations of our rights (especially the ones that "up for debate"). I think a feminist piece like the vagina monologues is exactly what our society needs right now. We need strong female leadership to counteract what is happening in washington and we need to capitalize on our strength in numbers. This particular show has always been one I wanted to direct because of its strong messages of femininity. I wonder what this piece would look like through the lens of a gay male , an advocate for the under appreciated. This lens definitely changes the piece but provides just as cool insight as the original work, in my opinion.

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