The crowd of girls, bourgeois boyfriends and horrified step-mother types is hushed. They sit in the dimly lit Performing Arts Center (PAC), leaned forward around a stage that’s one part boxing rink and one part soap box. In the back the ushers quietly grin.
The sold-out “Vagina Monologues” pulled no punches and yielded no yawns on Friday night when Cal Poly students and San Luis Obispo citizens attended the play meant to empower and vocalize often suppressed issues women face on a regular basis.
The ladies navigated a potentially pseudo-Greenwich vibe that’s all too easy to fall into during coffee shop poetry-type performances. What they arrived at felt organic and human. The “Vagina Monologues” is a candid diary entry, much more exclusive than a Facebook post — too sincere for Tumblr. It’s handwritten, complete with nail polish marks and coffee stains, scribbled out thoughts and hand gestures.
The monologues, each several minutes long, completely varied in heaviness and topic. One monologue concerned misplaced blame women have to face when they wear revealing clothing, one comprised of an astoundingly long list of slang for vaginas and one described an incredibly boring, incredibly sexually capable man named “Bob.”
Emma Woodard brought the audience into the shoes of a girl coming to terms with the concept of masturbating for the first time. The confession, though scripted, came candid — shiny English accent and all.
The auburn dress stepped back and forth across the stage like a German clock figurine at the top of the hour. On each corner of the stage, a girl sat back, legs open, peering into the abyss between her thighs.
“I didn’t have to find my clitoris, I had to be it!” Woodard exclaimed with invigoration. “Be. My. Clitoris.”
“I lay back and I closed my eyes. I put the mirror down. I saw myself floating above myself. And I watched as I slowly began to approach myself and re-enter myself. It’s quiet as I’m re-entering. Quiet, and gentle. I felt like an astronaut re-entering the surface of the earth. I bounced, and landed. Landed and bounced. I came into my own muscles and then I slid into my vagina. It was suddenly easy, and I fit.”
Woodard may not have written the piece, but she inherited the dilemma and solution when she confessed it to the crowd.
Not every monologue was elated self-discovery, though. “My Vagina Was My Village” forcefully held the attention of the audience as two girls took the roles of women who were raped during the Yugoslav Wars in the ’90s.
Draped in refugee garb, English senior Karlee Benner and theater studies senior Melissa Frye exchanged melancholy lines.
“There is something between my legs,” Benner admitted. “I do not know what it is. I do not know where it is. I do not touch. Not now. Not anymore. Not since.”
“My vagina was chatty, can’t wait, so much saying, so much words talking, can’t quit saying, can’t quit trying, oh yes, oh yes,” said Frye.
“Not since I dream there’s a dead animal sewn in down there with thick black fishing line,” Benner went on. “And that bad dead animal’s smell cannot be removed. And its throat is slit and it bleeds through all my summer dresses.”
It was unwavering and stomach-twisting; the bigger crime would be for the story to go untold.
Whether funny, self-deprecating, serious, personal or crude, all of the monologues were honest. They encapsulated the woman’s experience, but stayed disarming enough to survive the patronizing of a still male-dominated society. It certainly turned heads and started some conversations. Whether it will catalyze psyche shift in the audience is to be seen.
There will be two more performances of the “Vagina Monologues” in English on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m. A Spanish version will also debut on Feb. 21 at 8 p.m.