During reception, Chatham’s “The Vagina Monologues” donates proceeds to POWER

On Friday, February 13, in celebration of Valentines Day, Chatham University Drama Club put on its annual performance of Eve Ensler’s 1996 episodic play, “The Vagina Monologues.”

The show–a gritty and unapologetic representation of women and how they feel about themselves–was a big success, filling almost all of Chatham’s Eddy Theatre.

Afterwards, Catherine Giles, the co-director, invited all attendees to a reception, taking place in Café Rachel and the Woodland Art Gallery.

As students slowly made their way from Eddy Theatre to the reception, staff members handed out free drink vouchers, and students set up food tables with cookies, cupcakes, vegetables, and–a student favorite–spinach and artichoke dip.

In addition to people socializing and discussing the show, various student organizations used the reception as an opportunity to get their messages out to the student body.

One such organization–Feminist Activists Creating Equality (FACE)–set up a table at which they sold cookies with vaginas drawn on them in icing.

At the table with FACE was a display about the website “The World Needs More Love Letters,” where they asked students to write letter of encouragement to people going through a hard time.

Photo Credit: Katerina Sarandou

Photo Credit: Katerina Sarandou

In addition to random letters, this website also allows people to nominate family members who are going through a difficult time to receive personalized letters.

Another organization in attendance was the Chatham chapter of the International English Honor Society Sigma Tau Delta, headed by senior Kaitlyn Lacey. In a short speech, Lacey explained that the honor society would be sponsoring a 50/50 raffle to fundraise for a trip to an international convention in the spring where, “students will be presenting their work.”

After her speech, she passed the floor to Natalie Szewczyk, the Vice President of the Drama Club, co-director, and stage manager for the show.

After making a joke about how she was wearing something other than flannel (a rare occurrence for her), Szewczyk expressed her sincere gratitude to everyone who made the show possible, including the cast, the crew, her assistant Diana Cabrera, and Giles, because “without her the show wouldn’t have been as great as it was.”

Szewczyk then went on to introduce the Pennsylvania Organization for Women in Early Recovery (POWER), the featured organization at the reception, to which all of the show’s proceeds went.

“This wonderful organization called POWER…really touches my heart,” Szewczyk said, before explaining that the people at POWER, “help women rehabilitate and really change their lives.”

She then asked Karen Clark, volunteer coordinator at POWER, to say a few words about the organization and its mission.

“At POWER, we help women who are recovering from addiction,” Clark began.  “Like the play we just saw, we talk about things that aren’t often talked about.”

She went on to explain that women require a specific approach to recovery and that they often don’t get that because there aren’t many programs that cater to their needs.

It is important to, “look at the whole person,” she explained, going on to say that POWER’s philosophy is to, “empower women.”

“I’m privileged to talk to them on a daily basis,” she continued, before saying, “and I’m so grateful to be part of this production.”

Clark ended by encouraging students to help the non-profit organization in any capacity that they could from simply giving money to volunteering for them.

At that point, the woman sitting at the POWER table with Clark who had, until then, remained quiet, stood to say a few words.

“I don’t often divulge that I’m in recovery,” the POWER mentor said, “but I want to break my anonymity so that you can see the face of someone you’re helping.”

The woman went on to say that she is eight and a half years clean.

“This is what programs like this do,” she continued, “There’s a better life out there. We want women to thrive…we don’t want to give them fish; we want to teach them how to fish.”

“It’s awareness,” she concluded, “but it’s also action.”

The theme of the night was captured quite well in the quote on the cover of “The Vagina Monologues” program, which read, “It means battling the violence happening around us. It requires strength, courage, and fierceness. It means not being silent.”

Whether it is violence from another person, or violence inflicted on oneself in the form of substance abuse, the show and subsequent reception addressed all facets of the issue and encouraged students to take a stand and try to help in whatever capacity possible.


“The Vagina Monologues” returns to Chatham for annual performance

On Friday, February 13, the Chatham University Drama Club staged their annual production of Eve Ensler’s episodic play, “The Vagina Monologues,” based on Ensler’s interviews with 200 women about relationships, sex, violence against women, and—of course—vaginas.

Just after 7:00 p.m., co-director Catherine Giles took the stage at Eddy Theatre to welcome everyone in the nearly full auditorium to the 2015 production.  She noted that the performance would be supporting the organization POWER (Pennsylvania Organization for Women in Early Recovery), which assists women in overcoming drug and alcohol addictions.

As usual, the production ranged in tone from hilarious to tragic.

Probably the most well-received monologue was junior Phoebe Armstrong’s performance of, “The Woman Who Loved to Make Vaginas Happy,” about a sex worker who works exclusively with women. Armstrong’s lively demonstration of a range of the types of moans women let out during sex—including clitoral moans, vaginal moans, bisexual moans, and college moans, to name just a few—had the crowd in stitches.

Also relatively lighthearted and definitely entertaining were performances by seniors Jenny Schollaert and Skyler Wilcha.

Schollaert took the stage as a woman who became acquainted with her vagina in an enlightening vagina workshop.  Her passionate performance clearly communicated the rush that comes with getting to know one’s own body, and her liveliness kept the audience engaged and amused throughout her performance.

Wilcha performed a monologue about the, “not politically correct,” way a woman came to love her vagina. As she communicated via a staged telephone call to the production’s narrator, sophomore Indigo Baloch, Wilcha’s character came to accept herself by seeing her body through the eyes of an adoring man.

Wilcha’s conversational delivery and her descriptions of the entirely average man who helped her appreciate herself garnered much laughter from the crowd. The biggest laugh she received probably came from her line about the character’s first impression of this man: “I didn’t particularly like Bob,” she said.

These scenes were in stark contrast with two of the most heartbreaking in Ensler’s collection of monologues.

The first was, “They Beat the Boy Out of My Girl…Or So They Thought,” about the struggles of living as a transgender woman, performed by first-years Maya Carey and McKenzie Gordon, sophomores Baloch and Maggie McGovney, and junior Kelly Nestman.

The ensemble’s perfectly timed monologue was an emotional roller coaster. It addressed the childhood bullying that those who do not comply with “gender norms” face, the need that the bullied feel to hide their true identities for their own safety, the happiness and hopefulness that comes with finding people who are accepting of your true identity regardless of the one society assigns at birth, and the tragedy when a partner is killed simply because of their association with a transgendered woman.

Photo Credit: Catherine Giles

Photo Credit: Catherine Giles

The second harrowing scene was junior Rachael Owen’s rendition of, “My Vagina was My Village,” a story from the perspective of a victim of rape as a war tactic.  She detailed the emotions that arise from rape and how this violation can be so destructive to a woman’s relationship with herself and her body. The character—who was violated with objects, including the barrel of a gun, and then gang raped—likened this heinous act to the pillaging of a formerly happy village between her legs.

“They invaded it, butchered it, and burned it down,” recited Owens.

After both of these affecting scenes, as well as several others, audible sniffles could be heard from the audience.

Many of the monologues dealt with issues with which much of the audience could either identify or empathize.

The audience reveled in Lyons’s profanity-riddled monologue called, “My Angry Vagina,” in which she bemoaned all of the horrible things vaginas have to put up with, including uncomfortable tampons, unnecessary cleaning supplies, and unpleasant exams.

Senior Bertie Yarroll performed a monologue based on one woman’s story about how her ex-husband forced her to remove her pubic hair, though such hair is natural and purposeful.

First-year Bethany Bookout gave an impassioned performance of a monologue titled, “My Short Skirt,” stating that wearing a short skirt is not an invitation for scrutiny or forced entry; it is an entirely personal experience.

Bookout’s final line encapsulated a sentiment that most contemporary American women have, at one point or another, wanted to scream at the top of their lungs: “My short skirt—and everything under it—is mine.  Mine.  Mine.”

Sophomore Tahmina Tursonzadah ended the show with an earnest and emotional execution, “My Revolution Begins In the Body.”  The revolution of which this monologue speaks is one against patriarchal thinking and all of the barriers that the women depicted in Ensler’s play face.

There are things for which it is worth standing up, like gender equality, the end of violence, and the teaching of self-worth. Chatham University Drama Club’s annual presentation of, “The Vagina Monologues,” serves as a yearly reminder to, indeed, stand up.

Nothing private about their privates: “Vagina Monologues” gets a V for “Very Good”

Eve Ensler’s “The Vagina Monologues” was performed on February 14 and 15 in collaboration with the Drama Club, Bake Club, Chatham Choir, This is Me, Artist Collective and the Class of 2016.

Their work paid off as “The Vagina Monologues” performance was empowering, resonating, intimate, and poignant. The show opened with three women played by Diana Cabrea, Megan E. Cooper and Tahmina Tursonzadah who introduced the concept of “The Vagina Monologues”.

The monologues are a series of interviews with women of all ages, races, occupations, and sexualities. The women were asked peculiar questions about their privates such as “What would your vagina wear?” or “If your vagina could talk, what would it say?” The monologues are stories of self-discovery, pain and liberation, and are a pleasure to watch.

Photo Credit: Kitoko Chargois Gretchen Geibel performing "My Short Skirt"

Photo Credit: Kitoko Chargois
Gretchen Geibel performing “My Short Skirt”

An audience favorite was “The Flood” performed by Catherine “Cat” Giles.  From beginning to end she took on the identity of an elderly woman “who’s wondering why a young girl is going around asking old ladies about their down theres.” It was an authentic performance, from the accent, the body language and, most importantly, the delivery of the monologue. We felt her embarrassment and her sadness. We stepped into her life with every sentence. She flooded our hearts.

The monologue, “My Vagina was my Village”, performed by Jessica Chow, can be described as potent. Chow personified a village woman who is mutilated and raped repeatedly by soldiers invading her village. She describes her life before her rape and how her vagina used to be her home. Her face is jovial, full of wonder and hope but then it happens and her face is filled with anguish and sadness. The juxtaposition of these two emotions seamlessly conveyed how she was then as opposed to how she is currently. The performance was riveting.

Other note-worthy performances include “Reclaiming C***” by Meaghan Clohessy. This was fun and energetic, with the perfect amount of audience participation. In this piece Clohessy takes back the derogatory C-word. The word is said in a whisper then in various pitches and pronunciations, ending with shouting the word, accompanied with an echo from back stage and from the audience.

Skyler Wilcha’s performance of “My Angry Vagina” was unforgettable. The line, “dry wad of f****** cotton”, in reference to tampons, would be forever etched in our minds. Ciera’s Young’s recitation of “The Little Coochie Snorcher That Could” told the trials and tribulations of a woman’s vagina and her discovery of how to love and whom to love.

Photo Credit: Kitoko Chargois Sklyer Wilcha performing "My Angry Vagina"

Photo Credit: Kitoko Chargois
Sklyer Wilcha performing “My Angry Vagina”

The show closed with Onastasia Youssef and her monologue “One Billion Rising for Justice”. The monologue was a call to action to stop the violence against women not by staying silent but by speaking out until our voices are heard and changes are implemented.  It was a solid way to close the show. All the characters were present on stage with the speaker to advocate in unison for a world that is safe and accommodating for women of all kinds.