Tucked away in the top floor of the English department in Rolvaag, in a room doused in reddish-pink light, a group of students spoke, whispered, and shouted. There was laughter, applause, silence and maybe a few tears from the audience. The topic? Vaginas, of course.
On March 8, the St. Olaf student theater group Deep End performed “The Vagina Monologues,” a 1994 play by Eve Ensler. The play consists of a series of monologues based on dozens of interviews Ensler conducted with women from all walks of life; these speeches cover a wide range of topics related to vaginas. Some monologues are lighthearted and funny — one is a list of outfits women told Ensler their vaginas would wear if they were personified. Others are much more serious. Ensler wrote monologues about rape, abuse and a wide array of other atrocities committed against women. “The Vagina Monologues” contains some pretty rapid tone shifts, which add to the complexity of the work.
Following the vision of student directors, Ayee Mounivong ’22 and Regina Vera Estrada ’22, Deep End’s production of “The Vagina Monologues” wholeheartedly embraced the challenges and meanings of the original play. According to Mounivong, the response was overwhelming. “People wanted to participate and rise up as women together,” she said.
The actors took the importance of “The Vagina Monologues” to heart, and it showed in the performance. Some pieces hit home harder than others, and some were quite confusing, but throughout the play the performers were genuine and serious.
“They put something of themselves into the piece,” Mounivong acknowledged. And it made a difference — the monologues felt both personal and universal.
Beyond just making the show entertaining and engaging — which it was — the enthusiasm of the participants helped the audience understand the show’s more serious material. According to Mounivong, the actors each found a way to “appreciate the piece and feel the connection from the inside.” Some parts of “The Vagina Monologues” are dark and heavy. It was difficult to listen to at times. But the performers’ clear appreciation for and concern with the material made for a more compelling play.
Deep End’s performance of “The Vagina Monologues” was a fascinating and well-performed play. Most of all, it covered topics near and dear to the hearts of actors and audience members alike, and it did so well. The directors and performers produced a nuanced and engaging piece with real social value. It was thought-provoking and interesting, but most of all, Deep End’s “The Vagina Monologues” emphasized a message the participants believe in. Their message? In Mounivong’s words, “We all need to talk more about vaginas.”