“Cool Ladies Talking About Vaginas”
The Vagina Monologues Hits McGill in Time for V-Day
The Vagina Monologues is comfortably into its teens by now, but the storied and infamous production is still attention grabbing. There’s more to it than just the word in its name, though.
“The Vagina Monologues at the most basic level is about womanhood,” said Simone Vieco, a performer in McGill’s upcoming version of the play. “It reminds us all of the things that come with womanhood—and despite all the gritty sides of it, being a woman is a wonderful thing to be.”
This year marks the 15th anniversary of the launch of V-Day, an annual effort on Feb. 14 to raise awareness about violence against women put forth by communities around the globe.
V-Day McGill, a campus gender advocacy group, has been participating in the event since 2002, and it has since raised over $130,000 for V-Day and other anti-violence groups. This year, the group is putting on its 12th annual performance of the show, directed by McGill alumna Rachael Taylor Benjamin.
With a cast comprised of nine young women, Benjamin has worked to foster a sense of community amongst the group. Her main goal has been to make the show, as she put it, “fresh and relevant to a university audience.”
Vieco, a fourth-year McGill student, performs in three of the show’s monologues, and feels humbled to be a part of it.
“Everyone in the cast is so talented and funny, and different, and we create a little culture that’s very silly, diverse and loving,” Vieco said.
She credits Benjamin’s vision for making this production what it has become.
“She has put so much effort into making us a supportive community, and that has been integral to our success,” Vieco said.
“One of the reasons this year’s show is so special is the cast is on stage for the entire show. Instead of seeing one person on stage at a time, you’re seeing all of us there, listening and reacting to what the person is saying.”
McGill’s Leacock Hall, where the show will be put on, is a major reason Benjamin decided to keep the whole cast onstage.
“Leacock is a pretty daunting room. I think having a strong support throughout the play is important,” Benjamin said. “We’ve tried to make it a chatting kind of environment, that we’re all there together talking about these issues. It’s not just a performance, it’s a discussion.”
Benjamin said she was pleasantly surprised by the number of men in last year’s audience, and thinks The Vagina Monologues is a great example of using theatre to affect a change of perspective in the world.
“It’s important that it’s not just an audience of young women,” Benjamin said. “Men have been affected by it in a different way too. It’s a gendered issue, but it involves both [genders].”
For the 15th anniversary of V-Day, Ensler has launched a campaign called One Billion Rising, aiming to raise awareness to the alarming statistic that one out of three women falls victim to violence in her lifetime.
According to Ensler’s calculations, that comes to about one billion women, and the organizers are extending an invitation to the “one billion women and those who love them to walk out, dance, rise up and demand an end to this violence.”
In addition to the production, McGill students are organizing a flash mob on Valentine’s Day in support of the One Billion Rising campaign.
The notion is reiterated in a poem Ensler wrote this year after visiting India to address recent issues of gang violence against women.
Benjamin has chosen to include the poem in McGill’s production, which the whole cast will perform hand-in-hand, with their eyes closed.
It may be an unorthodox way to spend Valentine’s Day—sans dinner dates or moonlit walks—but Benjamin said that it might be a good idea to forgo tradition.
“There are probably a lot of guys who wouldn’t think this is their ideal way to spend Valentine’s Day,” said Benjamin. “But you know what? It’s a lot of cool ladies talking about vaginas. There could be worse things.”
The Vagina Monologues / Feb. 14 to Feb. 16 / McGill University Leacock Building (855 Sherbrooke St. W., #132) / 7:30 p.m. / $10.00 students, seniors and youth, $15.00 adults and non-students / Tickets: