When The Vagina Monologues, a play by Eve Ensler, was first produced 13 years ago, it sparked a sort of revolution, helping women regard their bodies with fresh appreciation and insisting on a newsocietal comfort regarding women’s bodies and identities. Since then, the play has become much more than a stage production, broadening, through Ensler’s V-Day campaign, into a worldwide phenomenon focused on helping women wherever they are oppressed.
For several years, Smith students have annually staged a production of The Vagina Monologues, around Valentines’ Day, for consistently enthusiastic audiences. This year’s performance will take place on Saturday, Feb. 12, at 7:30 p.m. in John M. Greene Hall. The focus of this year’s production is on the women of Haiti, says co-producer Camilla Claiborn, “who continue to experience gender violence in the wake of last year’s earthquake, and who are doing amazing humanitarian work of their own.”
Ticket proceeds will benefit Safe Passage, a shelter in Amherst for women and children in abusive situations.
Claiborn and co-producer Genevieve Guilfoile responded to questions about the play.
Grécourt Gate: How does participating in The Vagina Monologues change or strengthen your attitudes toward yourself as a woman?
Camilla Claiborn ’11: Over my three years of involvement in The Vagina Monologues—first as a cast member, now as co-director and co-producer—I have become more comfortable and confident talking about women’s issues that we so frequently ignore. I have looked around at the extraordinary casts and crews involved in the play and have gained strength from their commitment and dedication to this movement.
Genevieve Guilfoile ’13: From the time we are young, other adults continue to tell us that anything that has to do with a vagina is a shameful topic of discussion. However, as actors it is our job to tell the stories of these women as truthfully as possible. In order to give a truthful performance we have to push aside any shame and experience the story along with these characters. Telling a real woman’s story gives us the opportunity to be more familiar with something that is so important to us as women, and therefore more comfortable with our identity.
Gate: What is the strongest message you take away from the play?
Genevieve Guilfoile: Love yourself, love who you are, love your body—which is a beautiful and empowering thing that people from any race, culture, religion, ability, or sexual orientation can relate to on some level. Everybody has had an interaction with a vagina at some point in his or her life. And every woman has had some experience—whether it be positive, negative or indifferent—when it comes to her vagina. These experiences are important to talk about.
Camilla Claiborn: Be proud of women’s experiences, whether they are painful ones that have led to moments of despair, or happy, hilarious, or outrageous ones that have led to joy. Everyone has had a different experience of what it means to be a woman, and through our performance of The Vagina Monologues we hope to engage audience members in a critical thinking process about female identity.
Gate: Why is it important to continue producing this play and bringing it to audiences?
Camilla Claiborn: I believe that this play provides a rare glimpse into women’s lives and lived experiences, and it continues to be relevant even now, several years after its creation. We tell these stories because we know how important it is to listen and to open the dialogue about women’s sexuality, which is so frequently hidden and ignored.
Gate: What might people gain by attending the Smith production of The Vagina Monologues?
Camilla Claiborn: It is my hope that, by attending The Vagina Monologues at Smith, audience members will feel more comfortable discussing and thinking about the issues in this play that affect women and women’s sexuality. The show is sad, happy, entertaining, pensive, hilarious, personal, and ultimateluy different for every person watching, which is what I truly love about this production.