Talking about vaginas is something that causes many women to shutter in discomfort – so it may seem like an odd premise for a play. But “The Vagina Monologues” made the topic relatable, educational and funny.

The 2014 production of “The Vagina Monologues,” directed by Laney Graduate School doctoral student Ellie Anderson, ranged from solemnly serious to hysterically humorous as the performance educated and entertained all in attendance. The Center for Women at Emory and student organization Feminists in Action sponsored this year’s production.

“The Vagina Monologues,” a play by Eve Ensler, has been performed across the country at hundreds of universities, as well as in formal productions, to raise awareness about ending violence against women and girls.

What most people don’t realize, and what the Monologues attempt to show in spite of the gaudy title, are the daily hidden insecurities that many young women secretly share. The play illustrates the struggles of women across the world, while also celebrating the small successes that make the difficult journey of navigating womanhood worthwhile.

The “Monologues” consist of 12 stories presented from various viewpoints with different tones, lessons and connotations. Each monologue is performed by a different actress, and each actress comes from a unique place having had her own experiences, which lend to her representation of the story.

The stories stem from actual interviews of more than 200 women spanning all ages, religions, races and places.

The individual tales cover all sorts of embarrassing, uncomfortable and awkward issues that women deal with and think about daily. And sometimes, to be honest, it’s just nice to know we aren’t alone in those feelings.

The evening’s first performance came from Janetta Hill, a poet from Atlanta Word Works, who read a touching and all-too-true poem about women’s body image issues and insecurities.

Hill’s powerful delivery of each line about how women and girls are judged by men and how “society tells us we did it to ourselves” gave me chills.

All the actors then appeared on the stage and gave an overview of exactly what “The Vagina Monologues” were and what the audience could expect to see (and hear) that evening.

The first monologue of the evening, entitled “Hair,” was delivered by College sophomore Rupsha Basu. Basu’s blunt and extremely matter-of-fact tone perfectly fit the role of a woman dealing with a cheating husband.

One actress in particular stood out as she explained to the audience, with assistance from other cast members, multiple derivations of moans that one might hear or make when experiencing pleasure.

Jonelle McKenzie, an administrative professional with the Office of Quality at Emory Healthcare, ruled the stage with a leather whip and a voracious attitude.

Her version of the monologue, titled “The Woman Who Loved to Make Vaginas Happy,” was definitely a crowd-pleaser.

For example, the “Emory moan,” which included repeating, “I should be studying, I should be studying,” coerced a boisterous laugh out of many Emory students and even other attendees.

Another notable performance came from College freshman Sloan Krakovsky, who gave her rendition of “Because He Liked to Look at It.”

The monologue’s story about a man who spends hours looking at a woman’s vagina before agreeing to have sex with her is beautiful, raw and honest.

Krakovsky’s charisma combined with her dry sense of humor created the perfect setting for the story; not to mention that her facial expressions were outstanding.

About halfway through the performance, the mood took a turn toward the dark side as the monologues began to explore themes of sexual violence against women.

One monologue in particular, “My Vagina Was My Village,” performed in tandem by College sophomore Janay Harris and College senior Maddy Melnick, detailed one Bosnian woman’s grueling experience being sexually assaulted by multiple assailants.

While the story is difficult to hear, it is a testament to a woman’s ability to stand up for herself and prove that she is not defined by her assault. Her attackers didn’t break her, despite their aggressive attempts. She is a survivor.

One final notable monologue that stood out among all the rest was “They Beat the Girl Out of my Boy” delivered by Laney Graduate student Samantha Allen.

As Allen’s biography in the program states, she crowd-funded her sex reassignment surgery last fall to biologically become the woman she always identified as.

Allen’s performance was especially moving, as she can relate firsthand to the ridicule and abuse detailed in the monologue.

The more immersed she became in telling her story, the more emotional she became and the more audience members hung on to every word. From mentioning that her lieutenant father paid for her reassignment surgery to recalling positive and friendly reactions of “you have a beautiful daughter” that she heard from her parents’ friends at church, her story is truly moving.

“The Vagina Monologues” concluded with “I Was There in the Room” performed by first year pre-nursing student Kayley Scruggs.

This story about a grandmother witnessing the birth of her grandchild is both miraculous and eye-opening. The story teaches us that we should be in awe of women and the truly incredible abilities that their bodies possess.

Overall, “The Vagina Monologues” did not disappoint. It certainly left me applauding wholeheartedly in support of women and our right to be, well, women.

– By Annie McNutt

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