Monologues aims to draw women together in Forest Grove and beyond

by: COURTESY PHOTO - Eve Ensler first staged The Vagina Monologues in 1996. Since then, its become a popular Valentines Day production on college campuses, including Pacific University. There is a movement rising worldwide and it involves one billion vaginas.

Every year around Valentine's Day, playwright Eve Ensler's hilarious, tragic, poignant, irreverent, shocking, moving and profoundly meaningful “The Vagina Monologues” is performed on hundreds of college campuses around the world as part of an international campaign to end violence against women.

Pacific University in Forest Grove last presented it in 2010 and will stage it again this week, Feb. 7-9.

Sponsored by the Center for Gender Equity and Department of Theater and Dance, the production this year earned its own winter-term class, taught by costume designer, director and vagina know-it-all, Caitlin Quinn.

Performing in “The Vagina Monologues” for the first time two years ago changed Quinn's life, she said. Since, then it has been her dream to help other women get on stage and learn to feel comfortable and confident in their bodies. “It is so much about self-love,” she said.

“The whole concept is to open up conversation about women and their vaginas,” said Quinn. “To give women an avenue and space to talk about themselves, so they can come out on top, strong and more empowered.”

While it might sound powerful, try conveying that to class and cast full of awkward, wide-eyed freshmen that include 11 females and one male, said Quinn, who runs Pacific’s costume design program.

“It can be shocking to anybody at anytime when it's a new concept for them,” said Quinn. She remembers how empowering it was to be on stage and get out of her comfort zone.

Ensler's episodic play premiered in New York in 1996 and has since been translated in 20 countries including China, South Africa, and The Phillippines. Ensler’s goal is to get one billion women — the same number of women alive today who will be abused, raped or disrespected in their lifetimes, she says — to rise up on "V-Day" and demand an end to such violence. The "Monologues" performances are part of that.

The actual monologues — performed by a variety of women — touch on issues of sex, love, rape, menstruation, slurs, female genital mutilation, birth, masturbation and orgasm. They include humor, comparing male and female body parts, for example, with the line "who needs a handgun when you've got a semi-automatic?"

Monologues range from “I Was Twelve, My Mother Slapped Me,” a chorus about girls' first menstrual period; to “My Vagina was My Village,” testimonies of Bosnian women subjected to rape crime; to the climactic “The Woman Who Loved to Make Vaginas Happy,” wherein a female sex worker demonstrates the different moans she induces.

Quinn said the play is funny because it's true. It’s also an opportunity for more women to break social barriers by sharing something intimate with a group of people.

“Most students are not anywhere comfortable with their bodies,” said Quinn. Her challenge was to get them to a safe, comfortable place where the ladies (and man) could work through some of those boxed emotions and feelings of shame surrounding our bodies and ultimately, come out stronger.

“If they are okay to get up on stage and talk about the vagina,” Quinn said, “then the show is going to be great.”

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