Resonant applause, pointed silence, unrestrained laughter and the occasional outburst of fervent agreement rippled through the Sharp Theater Tuesday night during the Women’s Center’s presentation of “The Vagina Monologues.”
Written in 1996 by feminist activist Eve Ensler, “The Vagina Monologues” is an episodic play that deals with the female experience, empowerment and bodily sovereignty. Tuesday night’s performance featured 21 young women-mostly Ramapo students, some Women’s Center employees-who took to the nearly empty stage dressed all in black, although some did wear sparkly red and pink accents.
The performers recited monologues that touched on matters ranging from sex, orgasms, birth and grooming to rape, genital mutilation, prostitution and domestic violence.
“It was funny and inspiring and thought-provoking and moving, and I really do give those girls a lot of credit for getting up there and talking how they did,” freshman Nuri Muqsit said.
The Women’s Center sponsored the play to support the V-Day movement, a global activist movement inspired by “The Vagina Monologues” to fight violence against women. The V-Day movement had its biggest event ever this past Valentine’s Day, which was also the 15th anniversary of the movement itself.
The event, called the One Billion Rising campaign, was a call for women and supporters around the world to dance together in a show of strength and solidarity. The name of the campaign references the statistic that one in three women, about 1 billion women on the planet, will be beaten or raped in her lifetime.
According to the Violence Prevention Coordinator Genna Ayres, the Women’s Center first hosted the play two years ago.
“It was about the same size production. I wasn’t here at the time, but they’ve been alternating ‘The Vagina Monologues‘ with ‘Body Image Monologues,'” she said.
Ayres, one of the directors of the play, admits that preparing for the show was hard work.
“Getting all the girls together was really hard because everyone has such a busy schedule, and it’s such a low scale production,” Ayres said. “Casting the show was difficult and then finding a time we could all meet, getting the whole show together was so difficult.”
Ultimately, however, the hard work paid off.
“All of the cast members came through so well, and they all did such an amazing job,” Ayres said. “I’m just so proud of each of them.”
Ayres wasn’t the only person to praise the performers.
“It was just great, and someone asked me, ‘What was your favorite part?’ and I can think of some monologues, but it’s so hard because they were all awesome,” freshman Anna Baldassari said. “The acting talent up there was incredible.”
Many of the actors are Ramapo students in a variety of majors from biology to finance. Carolyn Wojtusiak, a junior who performed the final monologue of the night, said her involvement in the play was a happy accident.
“I went to the audition as moral support for a friend, and while I was waiting for her to audition she was reading her monologue, and it just re-sparked what I loved about acting,” Wojtusiak said. “I just kind of auditioned on a whim and got a part, and I’m so happy because it was great to get back on stage.”
Wojtusiak, whose monologue “Rising” was one of the most emotional of those performed, said she understands the significance the play holds for many people.
“I knew it was a phenomenal play and an experience for women, and it’s just very empowering,” Wojtusiak said. “I was very excited to be a part of it and get a better understanding of what other women go through.”
Another actor, sophomore Irina Samoila, echoed Wojtusiak’s statements.
“It was a lot of pressure because you have to be funny, you have to be playful, and then there are also some heavy pieces,” Samoila said. “But overall it was absolutely great, everybody was so friendly, and it was for a great cause.”
Although “The Vagina Monologues” has been performed thousands of times all over the country, Ramapo College’s Women’s Center managed to put its own mark on the show.
“The V-Day corporation decides all the monologues for us, and we just get to cast them,” Ayres explained. “But we did decide on our own to add the I Am Rising piece that each girl individually spoke up about.”
“We wanted that whole piece to feel like a real unified cast,” Ayres said. “We wanted everyone to come together because it’s an issue that’s clearly really important to all of us.”
The show will be held at the Sharp Theater again on March 7 at 8 p.m. All proceeds will go to Shelter our Sisters, a not-for-profit organization whose mission is to assist women and children victims of abuse.