I peek out from the side stage door and watch people filter in. There’s nothing like the energy emanating from an audience, especially on the last night of a performance. I am particularly nervous about tonight’s performance because my family, my best friend from home, and my boyfriend will in that very audience. I’ve been on stages before, and I’ve been in front of people whose opinions matter immensely to me but this time is different.
I agreed to co-direct The Vagina Monologues after realizing the power of using the arts to get out a political message. The Monologues is compiles interviews with women of all ages and backgrounds. Through this text, with the help of our brilliant cast, we shed light on injustices happening all around the world. This was not like any other show I’d been a part of before.
Before the show, the cast greets audience members at the door and asks them “If your vagina could talk what would it say? What would it wear?” Answers range from ‘absolutely nothing’ to ‘diamond encrusted stilettos’. While asking strangers these questions about their vagina, I spot my family and friends coming up the stairs and ask my aunt what her vagina would say if it could talk.
“WHAT, ew are you kidding me? That’s disgusting,” she responded.
“You do realize you’re coming to a show called The Vagina Monologues, right?”
If she couldn’t take that simple question, she was in for a long night.
The show went by in a blur of stage cues and scene changes. I only remember feeling immensely proud of my women: our cast. We had not only brought this text to life, we had transformed ourselves from strangers to a solid unit of social change. We were unstoppable.
My stage high was not long-lived, unfortunately. My family met me with confused expressions. My Aunt couldn’t deal with one scene. In this particular scene, the woman wants to reclaim and redefine ‘cunt’ and eradicate the taboo surrounding the word. The woman urges the audience to shout the word to show that, after all, it is just a word.
“The lady behind me yelled cunt in my ear! I wanted to crawl under my chair and just die!”
She wasn’t thrilled. Perhaps I should have prepped her a bit before throwing her mercilessly into my feminist theatre. It seemed that the show had failed them. They were so shocked by the biting humor that the larger picture didn’t get to them, or so I thought.
As the night went on, the show was continually brought up in conversation. Sometimes it wasn’t even the show but the word ‘vagina.’ Now, the word wasn’t being said with a crinkly nose of disgust. Without knowing it, my family was becoming more and more accepting. After some drinks, we even began sharing stories.
That was the goal of our show: Raise awareness and begin conversation. Now, we talk about our vaginas at least once during any family gathering, and it’s not even me who brings up the conversation! The more discussion we have, the less uncomfortable we feel.
I’m not going to urge you to ask your Aunt what her vagina would say if it could talk, but I will urge you to start a conversation. About what? About anything. The only way to make an issue less ‘disgusting’ is to talk about it and familiarize others with it. I know there will be a time when the word vagina spoken aloud will not make others flinch. The next time you have a thought that might be controversial, I urge you to go for it. Broadcast it. The world is your stage and it needs to hear what you have to say.