Introducing down there

A production to replace the Vagina Monologues aims to be accountable to the community

Farheen Alim (left), Beckham Ronaghan (right) and Anoodth Naushan (not pictured) hope Down There will be more representative of the Queen’s and Kingston community.
Farheen Alim (left), Beckham Ronaghan (right) and Anoodth Naushan (not pictured) hope Down There will be more representative of the Queen’s and Kingston community.
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This year, there will be no Vagina Monologues. Instead there will be Down There.

Last year the production began branching away from Eve Ensler’s monologues with the addition of Revulvalutions. The cast performed the Vagina Monologues in the first half of the show then presented original material written by the Queen’s and Kingston community.

This year’s directors Anoodth Naushan, Farheen Alim and Beckham Ronaghan wanted to create an original production that reflected the performers’ experiences.

“It’s a way of having the production be representative and often accountable to the community,” Naushan, ArtSci ’12, said. “It becomes more natural when these monologues are coming from people’s partners, people’s friends.”

The directors choose the name Down There not only for its playful connotations, but because it’s more representative of the production. They said names Vagina Monologues and even Revulvalutions were problematic because they implicate the female body in the definition of womanhood.

“They’re really vagina-centric,” Alim said. “It’s more about people’s experiences in general rather than their sexual organs.”

Naushan said they love the empowering message of Vagina Monologues, but felt constrained by its contractual requirements. Ronaghan said that in past productions of Vagina Monologues, they had to promise to perform 12 required monologues and were able to select six monologues from a list.

“They’re sort of the indigenous woman’s monologue, the Muslim identified who wears a head scarf, the trans monologue,” Ronaghan, ArtSci ’12, said of the offered choice monologues. “They’re all like racialized minority categories and you have to pick and choose which minority you’re representing.”

Naushan said many of the monologues are often racist, homophobic or transphobic.

“The casting directions are explicitly racist in that they’ll call for a certain person of this identity in such an accent,” she said. “Also the very idea of the Vagina Monologues itself is an imperial project because it’s Eve Ensler, this white woman with a lot of privilege, going around collecting stories from primarily racialized spaces from primarily third world women.”

Ensler is the playwright who wrote Vagina Monologues in 1996. She wrote the plays by listening to stories from her friends, which started a chain of referrals to other women’s plights.

Though the show is stepping away from the Vagina Monologues name, Ronaghan said all promotional material will read “from the producers of the Vagina Monologues.” The directors said they recognize it’s a risk to move away from the reputation that comes along with a Vagina Monologues show. But they said it’s a necessary step.

“In many ways it’s similar,” Naushan said. “It’s about taboo words and talks about the importance of righteous outrage. But it’s making it more accountable.”

The directors are currently accepting monologue submissions until Nov. 20. They expect to receive over 20 submissions and hope to have 12 to 15 monologues for the February show.

This year the audition process will change to allow performers to prepare a piece instead of a cold reading of a script from the directors.

“Part of auditioning is you bring in a piece that you are passionate about, or connect with or that you wrote personally or that you just really love,” Ronaghan said. “You perform that for us and then you can perform that in the show or if we don’t hire that person who’s trying out, we can maybe include that piece in the show.”

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