Read my lips

A campus group puts on their second annual performance of Eve Ensler’s “Vagina Monologues”

Read my lips

Martina Marosi

WHAT:The Vagina Monologues

WHERE: Coffman Theater

WHEN: 5 p.m. Sunday=

COST: $10,adults; $8, students

Vagina. ItâÄôs a blush-inducing word for timid lasses, an overly enunciated statement for prideful feminists, and itâÄôs inextricably tied to the female form. ItâÄôs also the stage and subject for Eve EnslerâÄôs famous âÄúVagina Monologues,âÄù which, on April 17, will come to the University of Minnesota as part of the V-Day annual performance season.

To those unfamiliar with EnslerâÄôs work, the mere title of âÄúThe Vagina MonologuesâÄù may conjure the image of an endless theatrical event featuring the passionate ravings of a crazed madwoman fixated on the glory of the female member.

Instead, it is the product of dozens of interviews with women that Ensler retooled into monologues for the purposes of addressing the taboo surrounding female sexuality and engaging her audiences in a conversation about the social stigma around victims of sexual violence.

This week, that conversation will come to campus. This yearâÄôs event was organized as part of the annual V-Day season, started by Ensler in 1998, where any individual, community or organization can put on its own production of EnslerâÄôs play anytime from Feb. to April, and use the profit to invest back into groups working to end violence against women.

This year, a portion of the proceeds of all performances of âÄúThe Vagina MonologuesâÄù will go to a Haitian charity that shelters and empowers female victims of sexual violence, and the rest is dedicated to a given troupeâÄôs selected local cause.

For the campus group, the remainder of its earnings will go to WomenâÄôs Advocates, Inc., an organization in St. Paul that offers housing and support for battered and abused women.

Grad student Johanna Ennser-Kananen started her own group last year specifically to convey the message communicated on V-Day. Her love for âÄúThe Vagina MonologuesâÄù goes back to 2006, when Ennser-Kananen was still in her native Vienna, virgin territory for the monologues until she and a friend did their own V-Day performance that, even after she moved to the U.S., still continues every year.

Ennser-Kananen credits this success to the unique character and resonant quality of âÄúThe Vagina MonologuesâÄù that she and her group wish to bring to the Coffman Theater stage this Sunday.

âÄúItâÄôs this amazing blend of original womenâÄôs stories but also the performerâÄôs stories who put their own voice into it. ItâÄôs not just a play for entertainment âĦ ItâÄôs very real and thatâÄôs what makes it so powerful,âÄù Ennser-Kananen said.

Performer and doctoral candidate Chelda Smith, who will be doing the spotlight performance for Haitian women this year, is herself from Haiti and notes the deeply personal cords struck while rehearsing her piece.

âÄúItâÄôs hard for me to turn down any opportunity to raise awareness about whatâÄôs going on in Haiti,âÄù Smith said. âÄúI became emotional at first when I started practicing âĦ It makes a huge difference when youâÄôre not speaking about something abstractly, and this is definitely not abstract for me.âÄù

Ennser-Kananen was attracted to the work because of how much ground it covers. âÄúItâÄôs like an emotional roller coaster. Some of these make you crack up âĦ some of them are really touching âĦ others are just really sad and shocking âĦ then there are some about romance and love,âÄù Ennser-Kananen said.

The diversity in tales is reflected in the range of characters in âÄúThe Vagina MonologuesâÄù and in its performers.

âÄúIt gives voice to a number of different women in different places âĦ classes âĦ areas of society,âÄù performer and Century College professor Judith Roy said.

Roy, who will be reading the part of the 6-year-old girl who gets asked what her vagina would wear, is one of the founding faculty of the women and gender studies program at Century College, a degree that has now been around for more than 15 years.

âÄú[âÄòThe Vagina MonologuesâÄô] is a way to reclaim female identity with their own bodies and to talk about violence to female bodies,âÄù Roy said.

V-Day seeks to harness the popularity of âÄúThe Vagina MonologuesâÄù as a political piece and to raise money for organizations working to prevent and control violence against women, while also increasing awareness on a local, national and international level.

âÄúItâÄôs a very positive, very forward-focused idea of how can we work together to end violence against women,âÄù Roy said.