Eve Ensler first produced "The Vagina Monologues" in New York City in 1996, under the more reticent title, "The Monologues." She based the script on interviews she'd done with more than 200 women of different ages, in which she asked them to describe their experiences with this intimate part of their body.
Unabashedly declaring its real name, "The Vagina Monologues" came to Park City in a Sundance Theatre production in 2000. The national touring show has been several times to Salt Lake City, and the play has been performed at the University of Utah and at Utah Valley State College.
This is the fourth year Westminster College students have done the play, always in February when Ensler allows colleges to use her script for free as a way to raise money for local agencies that combat violence against women. (The proceeds of the Westminster production go to the Rape Recovery Center.)
But if it seems "The Vagina Monologues" must be old hat now, a viewing of the Westminster production on Thursday night showed that Ensler's script is still capable of making the audience squirm, even as the actors cheer each other on and delight in the camaraderie they are creating. Many of us sank into our seats when the actors chanted a vulgarity for a female body part and urged us to shout it out.
The Westminster production is a lot like reader's theater as more than a dozen students, a professor and a graduate (Babs De Lay, who actually performed with the national touring company) take turns reading the monologues with varying degrees of skill. Nina Vought and Jennifer Rouse direct.
The monologue about the rape of Bosnian women is the saddest. "I became a river of poison ... I live somewhere else now, I don't know where that is. ..." Ensler's recently added monologue about watching the birth of her grandchild is the happiest. (Yet the miracle of birth does seem diminished a bit by her single-minded focus on the canal, despite her poetic description.)
In the cast biographies in the program, one young woman after another talks about how this play raises awareness and fosters bravery and celebrates the resilience of her gender. Even the oldest woman in the audience couldn't help but be glad for them.Sensitivity rating: The majority of monologues in this play are starkly sexual. Profanity includes the f-word. The script has been localized to contain a few references to BYU and Mormons.