The annual Vagina Monologues is back this coming Thursday and Friday, Feb 21and 22 backed by the Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance (FMLA) and the Women’s Center.
The Vagina Monologues is, according to Wikipedia, “An episodic play written by Eve Ensler. The play explores consensual and nonconsensual sexual experiences, body image, genital mutilation, direct and indirect encounters with reproduction, sex work, and several other topics through the eyes of women with various ages, races, sexualities, and other differences.”
Every year, Kutztown flawlessly puts on the Vagina Monologues in Schaeffer Auditorium, and this year is no different. Made up of students, staff, alumni and grad students, the Vagina Monologues is about a group of people working together to talk about a serious series of women’s issues as mentioned above. It’s not afraid of the language, it’s not afraid of going too far over the line, and it certainly doesn’t care about your feelings when it comes to the word “vagina.”
The assistant director, graduate student Brit Barlup (pronouns they/them), sat down and talked to me about the event, the process, and their experiences with getting to watch and getting to be in the show.
Barlup states they were very boring when they were an undergrad, having graduated in 2018. They were a homebody in their and didn’t do much else besides being a WGS minor, in their eyes. Now, as someone who works at the Women’s Center and the GLBTQ+ center with Christine Price, the head of both centers, they love their involvement it so much.
When it came to getting involved with the Vagina Monologues, Barlup stated they weren’t going to do anything until they were asked if assistant directing was something Barlup thought they could do. They knew they were needed, so they figured, why not? Barlup swore they wouldn’t do a monologue, but now, here they are now, doing a single monologue on one night while switching off with Ash, the director.
Okay, so if they’re assistant directing, then what’s the process like? “There’s a surprising amount of very specific rules you have to follow for everything. There’s the wording on the posters, you can’t change anything in the monologues, and a lot of other rules, so learning everything we have to do to keep it on par with other productions and keep it good in Eve’s eyes has been very interesting.” According to Barlup, this is actually a stipulation of Ensler’s.
Going off of that, I learned that every year, people performing must perform the entire book as a whole. This year’s production will follow the exact same one as last year. However, every so often, Ensler actually will change it up, switch out one monologue for a new one, but all the basic constants have been performed every year. There is a piece about being transgender, and familiar pieces such as “My Short Skirt,” “Vagina Workshop,” etc. “Nothing new is slightly disappointing. But we’re in a good political climate for them to be introducing new things.” Plus, Ensler could always just use another year.
Does the lack of new monologues this year mean there may not be enough representation of current events involving gender/sexuality? Should there be more about trans rights? People understanding each other’s pronouns? There could be more work done, and there are certain monologues that less appreciated and ones that are beloved. Some monologues are outdated, some could be replaced with more relevant topics and more. There are only two pieces about women of color. Even the one piece about being transgender made some uncomfortable. “The person contacted me about wanting to make changes to that monologue because it’s outdated, but I sadly can’t do that.
Maybe if Ensler updates some of her pieces, it’ll speak to the newer generation.
But what is it like doing a monologue when you’re the assistant director? Brit answered this as well. “It’s absolutely nerve-wracking. I was nervous at my own graduation. Being in front of people horrifies me, but I kinda love it so far.” It already helps that Brit thinks everyone’s extremely kind towards one another. The whole cast will run through the show and then just sit there talking for an hour about anything and everything. While scheduling conflicts are common, everything is going well.
As for faculty? Well, Christine Price is actually a part of the show! But that makes Brit a little nervous as well. “It’s weird saying ‘cunt’ to your boss, but it’s words I can’t change.”
With all of this, it was an interesting question with how Brit got involved in Vagina Monologues in the first place. Apparently, Brit saw it twice freshman year and they were enamored by it all. They saw it again senior year, and it was that push that actually got Brit more interested as well. “When you watch it, you experience everything.”
As an assistant director? Brit hasn’t even heard everyone perform yet; they’re busy running around and making sure very specific things are done, and this week was programs!
Barlup is still excited, regardless of the bumps in the road that it took to get there. Everything is coming together since November, and a lot of effort, time, and people’s help went into producing everything each week. “Seeing it come together will be cool, but I’m also terrified something will go wrong.”
“Vagina Monologues has been a tradition for me. The fact that I’m finally doing it is really, really cool, and I would encourage everyone to go see it. Well, maybe not if you can’t deal with some language, other than that it’s fun. It’s a good bonding experience and it’s cool.”
The show is $5 per ticket, which you can pick up in the MSU. Don’t miss your chance for this year’s performances!