Western senior Shane Malone’s goal last year after attending the “Vagina Memoirs” was to be a part of the cast the following year.
She had not heard about the show until her sophomore year at Western and attended her first performance alone. After seeing her friends in the cast and learning what the process is all about, she knew she wanted to be a part of it. She is now a performer.
The “Vagina Memoirs” is an original production put on by the Associated Students Women’s Center that features Western students telling their own stories, speaking their truths and educating the community as a whole, Sasha Parsley, the center’s assistant coordinator, said.
This year the “Vagina Memoirs” will be at 7 p.m., with showings every night from Wednesday, Feb. 22, to Saturday, Feb. 25.
The performances Wednesday through Friday will be held in the Viking Union Multipurpose Room, and the performance Saturday will be held in the Performing Arts Center. The show is free to the public, and all donations will go to the Lummi Victims of Crime.
The “Vagina Memoirs” evolved from the play the “Vagina Monologues” by Eve Ensler.
The Women’s Center used to put on Ensler’s play, which was a collection of stories about women discussing topics such as sexual assault and queer relationships.
About eight years ago, the Western community decided that there was a lot in the “Vagina Monologues” that was problematic and not necessarily representative of the broad range of experiences that occur among women, Parsley said.
“The Women’s Center decided they would transition to doing the ‘Vagina Memoirs’, where people on campus would audition and write their own stories,” Parsley said.
The subject matter of the featured memoirs includes rape, incest, sexual assault, immigrant experiences and gender identity.
These topics are not usually talked about because they are uncomfortable and often harsh to discuss, Parsley said.
“We all have our own stories, and unfortunately because of the patriarchal society we live in, some of the stories are silenced,” Malone said. “This event really gives women a chance to tell their own story with no apprehension, no holding back. It’s really exciting.”
Event organizers expect 2,000 students to attend this year, Chris Chatburn, AS Resource and Outreach Programs director, said. It stands as a tremendous community-building event, he said.
“Anytime you get 2,000 people in one room showing emotionally impactful stories, it creates a sense of community on campus,” Chatburn said. “I would go as far to say that if people don’t participate, they are really missing out on a huge opportunity that Western has to offer.”
The 17 performers in the “Vagina Memoirs” started meeting before winter break, Malone said. Their facilitators give them prompts at their weekly meetings to encourage daily journal writing. It was not until earlier in February when facilitators urged performers to start writing memoirs.
One misconception about the “Vagina Memoirs” is that all of them have to be sad, tragic tales, Parsley said. That is not the case at all.
“The process of the memoirs is that everyone carries things within them regardless of what it is,” Parsley said. “We all have something in us and we all have a truth to tell, so the production is about individuals growing and telling their truth, whatever it may be.”
Each year after the “Vagina Memoirs,” the Women’s Center blossoms and gains a new group of individuals coming in looking for support or just wanting to talk, Parsley said.
The performances have such an impact on audience members that people come back night after night to gain something new, she said.
Everyone attending the “Vagina Memoirs” is there to celebrate women, but it is not only a celebration of the women performing, it is also a celebration of their truths and experiences, Malone said.
“You’re going to cry, I guarantee that,” Malone said. “But you’re going to laugh, you’re going to hoot and holler, and it’s just a big party.”