It started with one woman, Eve Ensler, and her interest in vaginas. Ensler wanted to write a book on vaginas, to tell their stories. She conducted interviews with over 200 women on their vaginas and the issues surrounding them. These interviews began to coalesce into monologues, and the monologues took shape into a single production. This production is performed on thousands of college and university campuses in the United States, as well as hundreds of locations around the world. This was the start of The Vagina Monologues, and on its eight-year-long journey it’s making a pit stop in Bellingham.
Western Washington University is hosting its annual production of The Vagina Monologues February 10, 11, and 12. The show is being put on by the Women’s Center as part of V-Day.
V-Day is a global movement with the goal to stop violence against women and girls. V-Day is held on Valentine’s Day, February 14, and Ensler plans on continuing the efforts of the movement “until the violence stops,” as the campaign slogan demands, against women and girls.
This year, Western’s production of The Vagina Monologues is directed by Women’s Center Co-coordinator Hana Kato and Kate Plesha, a self-proclaimed “avid Women’s Center volunteer.” Both Kato and Plesha have been involved in the production in years past, specifically with The Vagina Memoirs, a spin-off of Ensler’s monologue-style format in which the women perform monologues that they get to write themselves. Kato and Plesha are both excited to co-direct The Vagina Monologues this year.
“V-Day and the monologues are very exciting to be a part of,” said Kato. “It makes me really proud to be a part of this larger movement.”
Plesha agrees with Kato about the wide-reaching nature of V-Day and the performance of The Vagina Monologues. “I really like the thought that we are putting on this piece while thousands of women all over the world are also performing it. We’re all supporting the same cause, ‘Until the Violence Stops,’ while at the same time supporting local organizations for women.”
This benefit to local organizations is because all the proceeds from any production of The Vagina Monologues go to charities for women and children. Ten percent of production proceeds goes to what is called the Spotlight Campaign, a cause selected by Ensler herself. This year’s Spotlight Campaign focus is on comfort women. Comfort women are women who were forced into sexual slavery during World War II for the “comfort” of Japanese soldiers. Many of these women have died long before their stories could be told and, the ones who have stood up against over half a century of silence are not being recognized by the Japanese government. Proceeds will go to aid them in their struggle to be heard.
The remaining ninety percent of Vagina Monologues proceeds is designated to be given to local organizations that provide services to women and children. This year, forty five percent of money raised will be given to Women Care, a Bellingham women’s shelter and relocation program, and forty five percent will go to Lydia’s Place, a program which educates women on how to rebuild after a violent situation, secure jobs and housing, and offers parental training.
The production itself has had a powerful and positive impact, said Kato. “I think the most beautiful part is the progression as the cast becomes more cohesive, and that spreads to others beyond the cast,” she said. Plesha noted that “women get their dads to come to this, which is so cool.”
Both within the cast and in the community at large, Kato sees the power on The Vagina Monologues. “I see its main function as breaking the silence. It acts as a catalyst for dialogue and women find more confidence in themselves.”
And not just women are involved. Western Men Against Violence, an on-campus group which supports the production, will be ushering for the show.
The production runs Friday, Saturday, and Sunday February 10, 11, and 12 in the Viking Union Multipurpose Room at 8 p.m. The cost is $10 for students and $13 for non-students. The directors recommend purchasing tickets early. For more information on The Vagina Monologues or V-Day, contact the Women’s Center at 650-6114.