Queen’s gets down

Queen’s students include gender non-conforming perspectives in a show inspired by the Vagina Monologues

Along with the original monologues, Down There presents a Talk Back session where audience members can ask questions to the directors.
Along with the original monologues, Down There presents a Talk Back session where audience members can ask questions to the directors.

This week marks an on-campus group’s departure from the Vagina Monologues.

Down There is a compilation of original monologues from the Kingston and Queen’s community. This year’s directors, Anoodth Naushan, Farheen Alim and Beckham Ronaghan, decided to move away from the pre-written works of the Vagina Monologues. The directors said they felt original material would be more representative of the community.

Eve Ensler wrote the Vagina Monologues in 1994, but Naushan told the Journal in November that this year’s directors felt the casting directions in the monologues were explicitly racist, calling for actors with a certain ethnic identity or accent.

The directors also took issue with the monologues’ focus on female body parts in depictions of womanhood. Down There expands the series of monologues to include transgender and gender non-conforming perspectives. Every scene is a challenging depiction of sexual issues like date rape culture and the sex industry.

The most moving monologues describe how love and intimacy are problematic for people who don’t conform to conventional gender identities. “I Do” follows a lesbian couple’s struggle for equal marital rights, inspired by Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriage in California in 2008.

“Parallel Bars” chronicles a girl’s exploration of her vagina from childhood to maturity. Part of what makes the show so provocative is its use of local submissions. Knowing that some of the stories are from the Queen’s and the Kingston community creates an intimate atmosphere between the audience, cast and writers.

“We tried to open up the show to include more people on the gender spectrum,” co-director Alim said at a rehearsal in the JDUC’s John Orr room on Sunday night.

This year’s show features Talk Back, a question and answer session with the three co-directors. The audience can respond with feedback, criticism, praise or clarifying questions. The energetic discussion enhances the experience, even if you don’t participate.

The whole cast demonstrates a personal intimacy with the material. It’s upfront and potentially uncomfortable, but it effectively forces audience members to consider the issues. Conventions associated with gender and marriage laws quickly become suspect and seem unjust when the performers depict companionship and love so sincerely. To enjoy the play you must be willing to alter forever your perspective on what you’ve got down there.

Down There plays at Convocation Hall from Feb. 9 to 11 with shows at 2 and 8 p.m.

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