Magic Time! Look Who ♥s ‘The Vagina Monologues’

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Eve Ensler. Photo by Scott Gries.
Eve Ensler. Photo by Scott Gries.

Each year at Valentine’s Day time, thousands of college and community groups around the world present staged readings and productions of The Vagina Monologues, by Tony Award–winning playwright Eve Ensler, to raise awareness of sexual violence and benefit local charities. Ensler’s episodic play, which she based on interviews with more than 200 women, has become since its first performance in 1996 a theatrical and activist phenomenon. By turns funny, sad, touching, and painful, it is the Energizer Bunny of populist pro-woman theater. It’s also a testament to the power of theater to create social change. The play inspired V-Day, a global activist movement to end violence against women and girls.

Each monologue in the play speaks of the personal experience of someone who has a vagina, on a range of topics that include sex, love, rape, menstruation, female genital mutilation, masturbation, birth, orgasm, sexual orientation, and social stigmas. But last month came a report from Mount Holyoke College that raised eyebrows and some ire: The student theater board there decided to discontinue performing The Vagina Monologues on the grounds that it was not transinclusive.

Eve Ensler responded in a blog post that concluded, “I stand in solidarity with students at Mount Holyoke in their fight against transphobia.” But not before she had made this eloquent observation:

Inclusion doesn’t come from refusing to acknowledge our distinctive experiences, and trying to erase them, in an attempt to pretend they do not exist. Inclusion comes from listening to our differences, and honoring the right of everyone to talk about their reality, free from oppression and bigotry and silencing. That’s real inclusion—to listen to different stories, with curiosity, and love, and respect, in all their particular and distinctive human individuality.

As I followed the fractious fallout from the Mount Holyoke story, I became curious to know how The Vagina Monologues is faring in the DC Metro area. Turns out, as the following roundup shows, it’s alive and well and going strong.

Countless people have already seen and heard The Vagina Monologues, many more than once. If you haven’t yet, here are your nearby chances (in order of first performance).

Vagina Monologues

  • Maryland Institute College of Art: February 12 & 13, 2015 at 8 pm & 10 pm, February 14 at 11:30 pm

Highlight:The Vagina Monologues has been performed for the past four years by female students, faculty, and staff at MICA.,” said Briana Arrington, director of the 2015 production. “The cast is full of very talented, energetic, and diverse young ladies who are passionate about feminism.”

Tickets: Available at the door ($5 for MICA students, $10 for nonstudents).

Venue: The Gateway Building, Maryland Institute College of Art, 1601 West Mount Royal Ave, Baltimore, MD 21217. Sponsored by the Office of Diversity and Intercultural Development.

For more information: Email vday2015mica@gmail.com.

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  • George Mason University: February 13 & 14, 2015 at 8 pm

Highlight: “This will be Mason’s 16th consecutive year hosting The Vagina Monologues,” said Lauren Mattos, a student coordinator. “Each year members from the GMU community, faculty, staff, and students, work together to create, direct, produce, and perform the monologues.”

Tickets: Available online, at the George Mason University box office, or at the door ($5 for students, $10 for faculty and staff, $25 for community, $15 for groups of 10 or more). The performance will benefit the Mason Victims of Violence Fund, which provides medical assistance, transportation, counseling, and safety services to student survivors of sexual assault, stalking, and dating/partner violence.

Venue: Harris Theater, George Mason University, 4737 Mason Pond Dr., George Mason University, Fairfax, Virginia 22030. Sponsored by George Mason University offices of Wellness, Alcohol and Violence Education and Services (WAVES) and Women and Gender Studies.

For more information: Visit the Facebook event or WAVES.

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  • Work It! Studio (Washington, DC): February 15, 2015 at 5 pm

Highlight: “This is our first production!,” said organizer Samica Pratt. “It is also the first time The Vagina Monologues is being performed at the African American Civil War Museum. We are excited to bring the play to the historic U Street Corridor, also known as Black Broadway.”

Tickets: Available online ($20). The performance will benefit Domestic Violence Wears Many Tags,  a local domestic violence prevention and resource organization dedicated to restoring and preserving a stable family environment through services, advocacy, and education.

Venue: African American Civil War History Museum, 1925 Vermont Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20001. Sponsored by Work It! Studio (“not your average fitness studio”), a community that embraces lifetime wellness for the entire family.

For more information: Visit the Facebook event or email vday2015@workitstudio.com.

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  • Gettysburg College: February 19 & 20, 2015 at 7 pm

Highlight: “This is the 14th annual student production of The Vagina Monologues,” said Michaela Sweeney, interim assistant director of the Gettysburg College Women’s Center, “and it features over 40 student and community performers.”

Tickets: Available at the door ($10, or $20 with a T-shirt or tank-top). All proceeds benefit Survivors, Inc., a nonprofit domestic violence shelter serving Adams County, PA.

Venue: The Ballroom of the College Union Building, located on West Lincoln Ave. (across the street from the Dining Hall) on the campus of Gettysburg College (300 North Washington St., Gettysburg, PA 17325). Presented by the Gettysburg College Women’s Center.

For more information: Visit the Women’s Center or its Facebook page or email womenscenter@gettysburg.edu.

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• Georgetown University Law Center: February 19 through 21, 2015 at 7 pm

Highlight: “There will be Georgetown Law Center professors in the show and potentially some original monologues performed,” said student coordinator Jillian Edmonds. “We will also be sponsoring a second show, called The MENding Monologues, April 9 through 11, 2015. It is a companion piece to The Vagina Monologues that discusses how men experience sexual violence, both as survivors and secondary survivors.”

Tickets: Available at the door ($10). Proceeds will benefit the Amara Legal Center, which was created by a Georgetown Law graduate and provides legal services to victims of human trafficking.

Venue: Hart Auditorium in the McDonough Building, 600 New Jersey Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20001.  Presented by Georgetown University Law Center.

For more information: Visit the Facebook event.

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  • Hood College: February 27 & 28, 2015 at 8 pm

Highlight: “Hood College produces and performs one of Eve Ensler’s plays each year,” said student V-Day coordinator Amanda Shaffery. “We have performed A Memory, A Monologue, A Rant and A Prayer twice, and this will be about our fourth time performing The Vagina Monologues.

Tickets: Available at the door ($5). The performance will benefit Heartly House, which serves Frederick County residents who have been impacted by domestic violence, sexual assault, and child abuse.

Venue: Hodson Auditorium in Rosenstock Hall, Hood College, 401 Rosemont Ave. Frederick, MD 21701. Sponsored by Equal Sex, the Hood College gender-equality group.

For more information: Email as35@hood.edu.

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  • Anacostia Art Center (Washington, DC): February 28, 2015 at 7 pm

Highlight: “This is my first year producing The Vagina Monologues,” said Simona Wright-James. “The cast will include women of different ages, races, and backgrounds, and I am organizing it with a focus on benefiting East of the River DC.”

Tickets: Available online ($10, website access code 1231) or at the door ($15). The performance will benefit Calvary Women’s Services, which offers housing, health, employment and education programs that empower homeless women in Washington, DC, to change their lives.

Venue: Anacostia Arts Center, 1231 Good Hope Road SE, Washington, DC 20020. The performance will also be live-streamed ($12 online, website access code 1231).

For more information: Email swjames@live.com or call 216 374 7932.

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John Stoltenberg
Among the hats John Stoltenberg wears are novelist and author, creative director and communications strategist, and avid theatergoer. Decades ago, in college, he began writing, producing, directing, and acting in plays. He continued through grad school—earning an M.F.A. in theater arts from Columbia University School of the Arts—then lucked into a job as writer-in-residence and administrative director with the influential experimental theater company The Open Theatre, whose legendary artistic director was Joseph Chaikin. Meanwhile Stoltenberg’s own plays were produced off-off-Broadway, and he won a New York State Arts Council grant to write plays. Then his life changed course: He turned to writing nonfiction and what became a distinguished career as a magazine editor. But he kept going to the theater, the art form that for him has always been the most transcendent and transporting and best illuminates the acts and ethics that connect us. He tweets at @JohnStoltenberg.