On Monday night, Judd Gymnasium as noticeably different. The typically empty historic gym was packed with seats and a large stage that sat right in front of the entrance. On Tuesday night, the gymnasium got more crowded with lights and curtains added to the mix.
The new objects filling Judd are a silent reminder. It’s an important week for 43 Springfield College women, who take the stage as part of their production of Eve Ensler’s iconic play, The Vagina Monologues. On Thursday night this annual Springfield College event is sponsored by Students Against Violence Everywhere (S.A.V.E.).
Thursday night is a culmination of eight months of hard work and dedication.
“Two weeks ago was probably more hectic for us, getting all of the chairs and the lights taken care of,” said junior Catie LeBlanc, who is one of the show’s three directors. “This week is more just putting everything together.”
LeBlanc, along with fellow junior Lainnie Emond and second-year graduate student Jess Charette, began putting the show together last May.
“It really starts off after winter break with rehearsals,” said Charette. “We do have some rehearsals before, but [it’s] more getting to know each other. We really start the work right after winter break.
“It’s equally as much about preparing for the show as it is getting to know each other as a group of women and building a community and a connection with one another.”
According to the play’s directors, this is the school’s sixth year performing The Vagina Monologues. Each year, the play, on each of the three performance days, gets tremendous attendance, but that is a distant second to the bonds the performers make and the messages they all deliver.
“A lot of people are attracted to The Vagina Monologues because it’s one of the few things that this campus does to support women on campus,” said Charette. “Many of us have had tragic experiences and can really relate to some of the monologues, which bring us together and makes it more powerful for us. It’s really liberating.”
“[The shows’] overall message of empowering yourself, and all this stuff happens that no one knows about are the reasons I do [it],” said LeBlanc.
The play has mandatory monologues that have to be a part of each performance. Then there are optional monologues that can be put into the play. Each year at Springfield, the cast has at least one member write an original piece and perform it. This year, three cast members co-wrote a piece and will perform it Thursday.
Although The Vagina Monologues follows a strict order, this cast is still able to make this year’s version of the play memorable. “I feel like this year we wanted to concentrate more on each girl trying to find something out of the monologue,” said LeBlanc, an athletic training major, “whether it’s self-empowerment or accepting what they have gone through.”
The cast was finalized during the first semester and like always, a steady group of returners and newcomers make up the 2012 ensemble.
Vanessa Rosario, who is currently a graduate student, is now in her third year performing in the production.
Rosario, a member of the track and field team, had friends who also took part in it and when she decided to join three years ago, she quickly learned how impactful The Vagina Monologues can be.
“As I’ve learned the meaning, I’ve joined it for different reasons,” said Rosario.
Through her experiences on stage, she has used the message from the play to impact those closest to her.
“My sister was physically abused by her boyfriend and she’s always felt the need to have a man around, so joining this and hearing my message would be for her,” said Rosario, who had her sister in attendance last year.
Freshman Sarah Higgins is the only first-year member of the 2012 rendition of The Vagina Monologues, but she has been impacted much longer.
Higgins remembers watching her sister Katelyn perform during her time at Springfield College. Instantaneously, Higgins knew she would one day take part in this herself.
“My first time coming here, it made a huge impact on me,” said Higgins, a health studies major. “Just hearing the message for the first time hit me really hard, and I knew that from right there I wanted to do this as well.”
Thursday night will be the first time Higgins takes part in any sort of production, in high school, Higgins was a member of “the pit.” She played music but never performed on stage.
“I’m actually really nervous [after] walking in [Monday] and seeing the chairs and the stage for the first time,” said Higgins. “I kind of had a heart attack.”
To make matters more interesting, Higgins’ monologue requires her to speak in an English accent the entire time.
Whether Higgins’ or any of the cast members’ performances are Broadway-worthy or not is irrelevant in this setting.
“It’s not so much that you’re performing, you’re more telling a story,” said LeBlanc. “It’s not about how dramatic you are, it’s about how well you get your message across.”
Even before the curtains draw, the cast will join one last time, hours before the play begins, to share in a moment before they impact those in the same way they have been impacted.
“Each year the night before the show impacts the most,” said Rosario. “That’s when everyone shares a personal story on why they’re a part of this and it creates a really special bond between females.”
The preshow ritual can also take less of a serious tone and more of a relaxing experience.
“We get there two hours before we even open,” said Emond, who is in her second year in the play, first as a director. “We do a lot of cast bonding and sing crazy vagina songs. It’s awesome.”
Typically, The Vagina Monologues sell out and this year will be no different. Thursday, Friday and Saturday’s showings all begin at 7 p.m. in Judd Gymnasium.
Terrence Payne may be reached at email@example.com