These lips don’t lie: 10 years of The Monologues

This year’s Vagina Monologues focus on the comedy and energy of the piece, with more audience interaction

Actors performing the piece “Cunt.”
Actors performing the piece “Cunt.”

A&E Editor This year marks the 10th time The Vagina Monologues has been produced at Queen’s. If the spirit, enthusiasm and drive of the women involved in this year’s production is any indication of what the future has in store for the play, it looks bright.

Led by directors Gerri Lutaaya, Tasha Niesen and Anne Voorheis, brightness is just what will be infused into this year’s production of the play.

“When we were first hired we all sat down together to talk about the show, we didn’t come up with one unified concept, but we had some goals for the show,” Niesen said. “One of them was that we really wanted to make the show really inclusive and really fun for audiences to come see. So that included making the monologues be more vibrant, more colourful with more action and more audience interaction.”

The Vagina Monologues has been re-imagined countless times since its first show in New York City in 1996. It’s now performed in more than 119 countries and 45 different languages. “We had also wanted to make sure we were building from the bottom-up versus trying to change last year’s show to make it our own,” Voorheis said.

This year’s production also hopes to bring awareness to the V-Day movement, an initiative started by Vagina Monologues creator Eve Ensler to raise money for women’s charities.

“We want to really emphasize the fact that show has an impact globally,” Niesen said.

The displays at the show will include facts about the play as well as information about where the The Vagina Monologues can be seen around the world.

“It is the same show every year and people do ask that question: ‘Why should I come see it again? It’s the same thing as last year.’ But it’s not the same show as last year,” Lutaaya said. “It’s a different cast of different girls and each girl brings something different. There’s different directors, different stage managers, there’s a whole new group of people involved—that in itself attracts a whole new audience.

A run-through of the play with the cast was filled with many claps, laughs and tears. The rehearsal process consists of much more than taking notes from directors. Known for having multiple workshops, guest speakers and “vagina check-ins” and “check outs” create a sense of community for the cast.

“It’s easy for us to forget about women, what it’s like to feel empowered and how to feel connected to other women. To be able to talk about things that are important to being a female,” Lutaaya said. “It’s not something that might happen every day, but if we can begin to make it feel more normal for an extended period of time, I think that’s pretty important.”

The cast is a diverse group of women from various backgrounds and experiences—something that was important for the directors when they were casting the show. The auditions included a cold-read of a monologues as well as interviews about why wanted to be a part of the show. More than 150 women auditioned for the show this year.

“It’s about taking 35 girls and giving them the opportunity to explore so many issues, explore themselves, their own sexuality, what it means to be a woman, what it is to be a woman in the world today,” Niesen said. “We had girls who weren’t comfortable saying the word vagina and girls who entered who were like, ‘I’m a third-wave feminist.’” A strong connection with the Kingston community is also a main focus Niesen said proceeds of the play go to the V-Day foundation, Dawn House and Interval House and Sexual Assault Centre Kingston.

The Vagina Monologues has gleaned its fair share of criticism, a fact that the cast and crew have made themselves aware of.

“The script is not perfect. Nothing’s perfect. And I think that we as directors tried to relay that message to the girls. We encouraged them to be critical of the script,” Niesen said.

“We had an entire workshop on Saturday where we talked about the appropriation of voices and about marginalized identities,” Voorheis said. “But the benefits of the script outweigh the negatives.” An actress in last year’s production of The Vagina Monologues, Voorheis said the Monologues have helped define her Queen’s experience.

“The woman who I was when I walked off the stage at the end our last show was a complete one-eighty from who I was when I walked in to do my audition,” she said. “I feel so grateful to have been a part of this.”

The Vagina Monologues plays in Convocation Hall on Feb. 11 at 8:30 p.m., Feb. 12 at 8:30 p.m. and Feb. 13 at 5 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. Tickets are $15 for students, $20 for adults and are available at Destinations.

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