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“Vagina” talks delve into taboo territory

Over 400 people gathered in the Student Union Ballroom last night. But why?

“We were worried about vaginas,” said Emily Rippe during the introduction to The Vagina Monologues.

The play – which was written by Eve Ensler in 1996 — is an outlet for women to share experiences and stories about their vaginas, and to raise awareness about a variety of related issues.

“Women should have a forum to discuss their sexuality, which is neither crude or vulgar,” said Hannah Geyer, the producer of the play, in the introduction.

The actresses – dressed in black – performed their individual monologues on a stage set up in the middle of the Union Ballroom. On both sides were surrounded by the woman-shaped silhouettes of the Silent Witnesses, cutouts that honor the memories of local women who were victims of domestic violence.

After the introduction, the play commenced with the more comedic monologues first.

In one skit, a 72-year-old woman who had been traumatized by an incident in which she ejaculated in the front-seat of her boyfriend’s car, unintentionally shed light on the reasons why people should be worried about vaginas.

“It [the vagina] is part of the house, but it’s a room I never visit,” actress Laura Nelson said.

Interspersed between monologues were facts given about the vagina, one of which was that the clitoris is the only part of the human body used only for pleasure, and has twice the nerve fibers as the penis.

Actress Angie Pohlman’s rendition of “My Angry Vagina” may have been the highlight of the evening.

The things that angered Pohlman – tampons, gynological exams, and thong underwear – and lines such as “Warm up the duck lips” had the audience applauding and laughing so hard that some neared the point of tears.

“It’s a very funny show,” Geyer said. “And you get to see women who are comfortable enough with themselves to be funny.”

A prime example of the humor in the play would be the array of moans that the cast and crew invented and demonstrated toward the end of the play, such as the “machine-gun moan” and the “broken condom moan.”

But not all the themes evoked smiles and laughter.

Along with the “Vagina Happy Facts” that were given throughout the night, there were also “Vagina Not So Happy Facts,” among them that about 130 million women and girls have suffered genital mutilation worldwide, and that 50,000 women are raped in the United States every year.

Several monologues reflected this sobering reality, such as the skit that Geyer performed alongside of the play’s director, Luce Tomlin-Brenner. The monologue dealt with domestic abuse in the Native American community, and focused on a woman who was so badly beaten by her husband that she needed to relearn how to talk and communicate.

Another moving skit – “Memory of Her Face” – explored a variety of issues, including domestic abuse in Pakistan, the war in Iraq, and the hundreds of women who have disappeared in Juarez, Mexico.

Members of the audience who were overwhelmed by the substance of the monologues could seek solice in the SAAFE advocate who was present in the back of the ballroom.

Gasps and winces went through the audience at the more disturbing details in the play, such as when Pohlman mentioned the horrors of enduring a gynological exam.

Pohlman’s character also answered a series of questions that were prevalent throughout the play, one of which was “If your vagina could write, what would it say?”

“My vagina would probably write newspaper articles, because no one has the right to tell me what I can and can’t say about my body,” she said to a roomfull of applause.

Pohlman also introduced one of the play’s more popular skits, called “Reclaiming Cunt,” and featuring Krista Corwin.

“Reclaiming Cunt” is a brief and provocative bit about a woman, who through euphoric moans, attempts to change the formerly negative connotation of the word “cunt” into something positive and sexy, much in the same way that some minority groups have done with other controversial words in the past.

“Her mission was to reclaim the word and turn it into something we can all be proud of,” Pohlman said.

Laressa Sobers, freshman, attended last night’s event out of curiousity, and to see a show which some view as inappropriate.

“It’s such a taboo subject,” Sobers said. “No one really talks about vaginas.”

But as Rippe said in the introduction, “Women secretly love to talk about their vaginas.”

The evening came to a close with a monologue that Ensler wrote about witnessing the birth of her grandchild, and was performed by Mellissa Marksberry.

Marksberry described the painful experience in graphic detail, but also conveyed the power and capabilities of the vagina.

“Her vagina became a big, red heart,” Marksberry said. “The human heart is capable of sacrifice, and so is the vagina.”

Geyer estimated that the money made from ticket sales was around $3,200.

All of the proceeds of the event will be donated to Cocoon Shelter, a local haven for battered women, and additional performances will be held tonight at 8 p.m., and Sunday at 2 p.m. in the Union Ballroom.

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