Washinton Square News Article about V-Day

12:49 AM / Posted by Ashley /

10 years later, still talking about Vaginas
Natalie Zutter
Issue date: 2/8/08 Section: Theater

In addition to the requisite truffles and caramels, NYU students can be seen licking lollipops shaped like vaginas this February. And besides the sweet nothings cooed between couples, the air will also be charged with stories of abuse, disrespect, pain, and ultimately, acceptance and self-love. A different V-word will be celebrated Feb. 14, when Voices for Choice, NYU's pro-choice student organization, celebrates V-Day, following the university's production of Eve Ensler's show "The Vagina Monologues."
Ten years ago, playwright Eve Ensler interviewed hundreds of women - a diverse group including college professors, old and young women, lesbians, married women - and constructed a number of monologues. Some are single stories and others are compilations of multiple stories. Fundamentally, "The Vagina Monologues" is a retelling of these stories, dealing with topics such as sexual experiences (good and bad) and child abuse.CAS senior Jessica Laigle, the head organizer of the V-Day campaign at NYU, praised the play's illumination of these issues. "People don't talk about the female body," she said, "which means that when women's bodies are violated, that too is silenced, and doesn't come out into the open."
Each year, Ensler writes a new monologue, known as the "spotlight monologue," which focuses on a specific social issue or an area of the world in which violence against women is most prevalent. Past years have focused on the homeless or Bosnian refugees. T
his year's spotlight is on New Orleans and "the economic hardship and violence women have faced in the aftermath" of Hurricane Katrina, said CAS junior Lydia O'Connor, director of this year's production.When Ensler first performed "The Vagina Monologues," it was a one-woman show, but subsequent productions have split the monologues among a number of performers. This year, NYU's production showcases 19 women.
Ashley Marinaccio, a first year Performance Studies graduate student, is excited about her role as a dominatrix in the monologue entitled, "The Woman Who Likes to Make Vaginas Happy.""I basically direct the chorus of moaning," she said. "It's one of the most lighthearted parts of the show. It draws a lot of laughs."But O'Connor said the show is more than just a source of entertainment. "The play's not really about the performance aspect," she said. "It's about raising awareness, telling stories and raising money."
Much of that money goes to an organization called Girls Educational & Mentoring Services.Ultimately, O'Connor said, the show aims to teach "different ways women can learn to love their vaginas."To that end, this February marks the tenth anniversary of V-Day, the movement organized around "The Vagina Monologues," as the issue of violence against women became noticed as a constant, overarching epidemic. What started a decade ago as a single day has now spread to the entire month of February. At NYU, the week leading up to the show's opening night - nicknamed "Vagina Week" - was filled with events promoting positive femininity and awareness of violence, with panels like "Voices of Queer Black Women," poetry readings, presentations by websites like Feministing.com and even a night of "sex toy bingo.""
The idea of having other events is to generate a dialogue about the issues," Laigle said. Although the use of the word "vagina" has lost some of its controversy in the last 10 years, she still credits the show's "ability to generate a dialogue, even opposition." "I feel like the V-Day campaign has really done a lot to promote women's issues and women's health and to generate awareness about the problems [abuse, rape, genocide] that women are facing today," Marinaccio said, adding that the show advocates "embracing rather than hiding" women's sexuality.
She explained that V-Day takes place on Feb. 14 because "[it's] reclaiming the 'V,' standing for 'valentine,' 'victory' and 'vagina.' " One of the major V-Day events this month will be a benefit festival in New Orleans, featuring celebrities including Oprah, Susan Sarandon, Ellen DeGeneres and Jennifer Hudson, with a performance of "The Vagina Monologues."Laigle has high hopes for the show's effect on its audiences. "A lot of [the play] is about being victims," she said, "but [also] being survivors. Standing up and saying, 'This is not my fault, this is not something I did wrong.' And people need to know that."


Natalie Zutter is a staff writer. E-mail her at theater@nyunews.com.

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