By Carley Crain
A sold-out crowd filled the Fuller Arts Center on Friday night. Many wore this year’s signature black shirt stating “Peace, Love and Vaginas,” as everyone anxiously waited for what promised to be an empowering and uplifting show. Friends, family, and teammates filled the audience in support of the powerful women in their lives– cheering loudly in excitement.
Originally created in 1996 by women’s rights advocate Eve Ensler, The Vagina Monologues has served as a cultural movement for women, and has given them the chance to celebrate their sexualities, instead of shying away from it. The performance, which features numerous unique short skits or written pieces, has provided thousands of women the opportunity to express themselves authentically.
Ensler was deeply committed to providing a safe space for women who may be survivors of sexual assault or violence, and many Springfield College students have shared their stories candidly through her program.
This year’s theme was, “Use your voice.” The all-female cast was inspired to speak up and bring awareness to an array of women’s rights issues. Junior Erin Smith wrote a personal narrative about a traumatic sexual experience she had in high school.
She felt it was the right time to share her story, and since this is her second year being a part of Vagina Monologues, Smith finally felt comfortable being completely vulnerable. While reading her story to the audience three nights in a row was difficult, it felt like she was breaking free from invisible restraints that have paralized her mentally and emotionally at times consistently over the past few years.
“I read it in front of everyone and it was probably the most patrifying thing I have ever had to do in my life, but it was so rewarding and healing in a way,” Smith said. “I would not have been able to do it without the courageous and authentic people who are involved with this production.”
Junior Chelsey Castle had a different, but just as valuable, experience as Smith this year being involved with Vagina Monologues. At the beginning of the school year, Castle wrote a note to herself stating some goals she wanted to achieve. The biggest goal of them all was to find a group on campus where she felt like she belonged.
In an Instagram post, Castle wrote; “My goal this year is to find a group of people who support me no matter what and support what I want unconditionally. That was the driving reason for joining Vagina Monologues in the first place.
“VM gave me more than just that support, it gave me connections that helped me make it through this year. I never in my life would imagine getting up on stage and doing something like that. This year I found my voice, learned passion, and I gained confidence.”
Talking about sex, relationships, and feminist issues openly wasn’t always easy for Castle, but after this year’s show, her confidence has reached an all-time high. Castle finally feels like she has found her people.
“Freshman year I saw it, but didn’t really know what I was going to. I saw the play, and was like wow that would be fun, but like I was terrified of it,” Castle said. “I didn’t think it was something I would ever have the confidence to do. I got involved a little bit last year by being a BOB for Robyn Arena, and that finally gave me the confidence to sign up for an audition.”
BOB’s are crucial parts of the Vagina Monologues, as each upperclassman cast member chooses an inspirational person in their life to support them throughout the year. The term “BOB” originates from a man named Bob who’s mentioned in one of the traditional monologues. In the set, he treats women and their bodies with respect.
During the weekend of the show, Castle celebrated her 21st birthday. Leading up to the big day, she felt nervous; usually, her birthday is a date she dreads because of the expectations of having a large friend group, with stresses of making plans and assumptions of perfection.
It’s a day for her where tears are typically shed, but this year, Castle was surrounded by her new friends from Vagina Monologues, and the only tears she cried were happy tears.
To her, Vagina Monologues was much more than a performance — it was a key that unlocked who she was meant to be all along. Vagina Monologues was the push she needed to be herself.
Photo by Mary Lee/The Student