Emory Report

Feb. 1, 1999

 Volume 51, No. 18

Vagina Monologues: soliloquies on that most private part

Eve Ensler finds the word "vagina" empowering. Others find it downright embarrassing. That's why she wrote her seriocomic, one-woman play, The Vagina Monologues, which won off-Broadway's Obie Award in 1997. Ensler wanted to take this "invisible word-a word that stirs up anxiety, awkwardness, contempt and disgust," she said, and make it, well, ordinary.

As she first began in New York last year with the help of celebrity performers such as Glenn Close, Whoopi Goldberg, Lily Tomlin, Rosie Perez and Marisa Tomei, Ensler will again turn Valentine's Day into "V-Day"--this time at colleges, universities and local theaters across the country, including Emory. On this day known for its emphasis on romance, Ensler will give her own gift of love by allowing Monologues to be performed nationwide to benefit programs combating violence against women.

Emory organizers asked Ensler to allow them to perform the play during Women's History Month and host a participatory reading of the play's monologues on Feb. 14. She agreed, and all Emory women are invited to choose their favorite "vagina monologue" and recite it on Valentine's Day, said Women's Center Director Ali Crown.

The reading will be held in 205 Rich Building from 3-5 p.m., and a reception will follow. The fast-growing list of other institutions participating in V-Day includes Agnes Scott College, the University of Georgia, Carnegie Mellon University, Columbia University, Rice University, Stanford University and about 35 others.

Proceeds from the March 21 performance of The Vagina Monologues will benefit the Women's Center, which has numerous programs targeting violence against women. Theater Studies Affiliate Artist Brenda Bynum will direct the production and choose her cast from some of the women who read on Valentine's Day.

Ensler talked with about 200 women to create The Vagina Monologues, which she also turned into book form. "I was worried about vaginas. I was worried about what we think about vaginas, and even more worried that we don't think about them," she wrote. "At first, women were reluctant to talk. They were a little shy. But once they got going, you couldn't stop them." The women's responses range from harrowing, with their descriptions of genital mutilation and rape, to comic ("If your vagina got dressed, what would it wear?")

Like the women she quotes, it took Ensler, a victim of abuse, some time to come around to her present frame of mind. "I left my body at a young age," she told a New York Times interviewer. "So, I wasn't informed by the intelligence of my body. I have been winging it."

For more information about the participatory reading of The Vagina Monologues on Feb. 14, call 404-727-2000.

--Stacey Jones

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