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'The Vagina Monologues' meaningful in midst of 'Me Too'

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Mira Sampath performs "Because He Liked To Look At it" during the annual Vagina Monologues at the Wright Auditorium Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2018.

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Mackenzie Tewksbury
The Daily Reflector

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Long before the #MeToo movement gave many women a platform to take a stand against sexual assault, “The Vagina Monologues” offered a voice to the silenced. 

The production, fully aware of the stigma surrounding women’s sexuality and sexual violence, raises awareness of abuse against women. Written by Eve Ensler, it was first performed in New York City in 1994 and was developed using more than 200 real interviews with women about sex and self-discovery. East Carolina students, faculty, staff and community members performed the play Tuesday night in Wright Auditorium. 

The play is performed in February on purpose: Feb. 14.  It celebrates V-Day, but not the bouquets of red roses, chocolates and romance that most probably think of. V-Day, a day created by Ensler, is an international day of awareness for sexual violence and abuse to girls and women. In the midst of the #MeToo movement, and as women across the globe open up about the pains of sexual abuse, organizers said the awareness proves as powerful as ever. 

“The #MeToo movement has been super exciting. Women are finding their voices,” said Kathleen Bursky, a victim’s advocate at ECU and performer in the play. “I think The Vagina Monologues are an extension of that. A celebration of that. It’s ahead of its time in a way that we’ve been talking about these things for years before the movement came about.” 

Bursky said this production allows a group of people with diverse experiences to feel a little less alone in a culture that may not always accept women embracing their sexuality. 

“Women are very sexualized in our society, but we’re not supposed to like it or talk about it,” Bursky said. “For a lot of women, this is about taking the power back.” 

The word “vagina” often warrants uncomfortable glares and uneasiness, and the cast and crew of the production were not scared to shatter those feelings Tuesday night with monologues that take a humorous yet meaningful stance on sex, including an act that expresses all of the words society uses just to avoid using the word “vagina.” 

“It’s uncomfortable. I kind of whisper when I say the word. That’s part of the reason why we’re doing this,” said Melissa Glenn, ECU junior and performer in the play. 

But, ridding the social stigma is not an easy feat as the play immediately receives criticism and judgment due to the first half of the title itself. Glen, who did in fact lower her voice as she spoke the somewhat socially forbidden word in public, said the play is more than just women on stage talking about sex.

“People think it’s some play about feminism. It’s so much more than that,” she said. 

And she is right, because the play addressed all aspects of the female experience. From the physical body, intimacy, women empowerment, the realities of sexual abuse and self-discovery, the play chronicles pain, love and everything in between. 

It opened with the song “Woman” by pop singer Kesha, who was recently very public about her journey with sexual assault. The show then erupts into real storylines; some that are raw and painful as they shine a light on real trauma while others are humorous and tender. 

Glen played a “vagina warrior” in the play. She said the play represents real issues and real conversations, and especially in the #MeToo movement, the performance tells women they are not alone. 

“I feel like there is just this culture that says it’s OK to treat women less. It is happening to everyone, whether it’s as simple as not taking no for an answer or as severe as rape,” Glen said. “I think no matter who you are, you can connect to one of these monologues.” 

Co-director of the play, Mark Rasdorf, said in a world full of gender inequalities — “Men can sit and watch television and be subjected to Viagra commercials,” he said — the play tries to right those wrongs and raise conversations that may be not be easy, but necessary. 

“Working on this show reminds me of the transformational power both of theater but also specifically what events made (Ensler) write the script,” Rasdorf said. “It’s also the transformational power for the audience that this show addresses issues that aren’t talked about that should be talked about. We believe we have to have these conversations.” 

Contact Mackenzie Tewksbury at 252-329-9585 or mtewksbury@reflector.com.

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