‘The Vagina Monologues’ return to UMass

By Erica Garnett

Shaina Mishkin/Daily Collegian
Shaina Mishkin/Daily Collegian

Just in time for Valentine’s Day, “The Vagina Monologues” took to the Bowker Auditorium stage with three performances from Feb. 14 to Feb. 16.

The performances were part of the global activist movement called “V Day,” which seeks to end violence toward women, including rape, battery, incest, female genital mutation (FGM) and sex slavery, both internationally and locally, and is active in 167 countries within Europe, Asia, Africa, the Caribbean and all of North America. Founded by Tony Award-winning playwright, performer and activist, Eve Ensler, “The Vagina Monologues” is one of the most popular shows to take place during “V Day,” and has been performed in over 140 countries and translated in over 48 languages. This year, the show was brought to UMass by the Center for Women and Community, and was produced by VOX: Voices for Planned Parenthood co-president Brittany Morgan. The show was directed by Geehae Moon. Both Morgan and Moon are students at the university.

When asked about her motivation behind directing the show, Moon said that she is a theater student with a specific passion in the topic of gender equality. She described the show’s cast as “talented, smart, beautiful and capable women full of passion and drive,” and added that she “was just there to guide them and show them how to be theatrical.” Moon hopes to direct the show again when it returns to campus next year.

Among Moon’s cast is junior Christie Basinas, who played an elderly woman in the monologue titled “The Flood.” Basinas explained that while she didn’t get to choose her role, she asked for something more lighthearted than her role the previous year, which was “The Village.” Playing an old-fashioned elderly woman with a repressed sexuality and an accent as thick as her stubbornness, Basinas said the part had a good “balance of tragedy and humor.” She plans to be involved in the show again next year, putting Granny to rest and trying another scene – perhaps “My Angry Vagina,” she noted.

Despite the comedic element of her role, Basinas said that “within the comedy is a lot of pain.” Although some monologues generate laughs amongst the audience, there is a sad underlying message in her role, as well as with many others throughout the show. They speak to the varying extent to which women have had embarrassing and repressing sexual experiences, which many of them carry throughout life.

“It’s going to take you on an emotional roller coaster,” Basinas said. “It’s going to make you afraid, it’s going to make you laugh, it’s going to make you sad, but in the end, it’s going to make you talk – and that is the mission of the piece.”

After starring in “The Flood” last year, Maud Herrera-Guada, a graduate exchange student from France, played the part of a woman that was a victim of rape during the Bosnian War. Herrera-Guada said that she chose this role  because of the emotional challenge the role entailed. In addition, she researched the war to better understand the perspective of the woman she portrayed.

“I wanted to fight prejudice and gain strength,” Herrera-Guada said. “I need my body to speak.”

Herrera-Guada and her partner on stage, Courtney Stacey, traded lines. Stacey spoke about the beautiful open landscape in Bosnia before it was in a war zone, leading up to Herrara-Guada’s piece. Herrera-Guada said that the juxtaposition of the two parts is a metaphor for the beauty and agency of the natural state of a woman’s body that is destroyed through the act of sexual assault. Through her role, she conveyed the importance of a woman being able “to go home” within her own body, emphasized by her powerful closing line: “There is no place that cannot be home nor is. I live someplace else now.”

The “V Day” movement is active in 167 countries within Europe, Asia, Africa, the Caribbean and all of North America – and growing. Its message is promoted through creative events to increase awareness, raise money and revitalize the spirit of existing anti-violence organizations. In 2012 alone, 5,800 “V Day” benefits took place around the world. One of the most popular was “The Vagina Monologues,” founded by Tony Award-winning playwright performer and activist, Eve Ensler. The show has been performed in over 140 countries and translated in over 48 languages.

 Erica Garnett can be reached at [email protected]