By Tirzah McMillan
What do you call a Roman soldier with a smile on his face and a piece of hair between his two front teeth?
No Vagina Jokes. Those aren’t funny. PERIOD.
Formally appropriate? No.
Ballsy and willing to say what others don’t have the courage to? Absolutely.
Similarly, this year’s Vagina Monologues cast is fired up and ready to make you laugh, cry, shift with discomfort, and shriek with a thrill. None of which would be possible without first year directors Elizabeth Carbonell, Maddie McDougall, and Katerina Kounadis.
What started off as interviews about the daily lives of women by Eve Ensler, quickly transformed into the dialogue for the Vagina Monologues, sparking a global movement for women empowerment and a stand against violence.
With an eclectically blended cast ready to perform, Springfield College is in for a treat. Topics for discussion will include amongst many others: vaginas, hair, abuse, masculinity/femininity, moaning, pleasure, discovery, and reclaiming the word cunt, ofcourse.
Meet the Directors
Each year new directors are nominated, and this year the choices were outstanding. Carbonell, McDougall, and Kounadis, formally known to the cast as just Liz, Maddie, and KK, have all went to great lengths to work as a cohesive unit for the improvement and renewal of the popular production.
“I think we tried to change up monologues this year.” said Carbonell. “ We really tried to dig deep and get a theme that would impact not only each of the girls, but the audience.”
Liz can be found sporting a stylish pair of glasses and a fashionable outfit to match on every occasion. She has been apart of the Vagina Monologues for three years and never envisioned herself directing, but this year was eye-opening.
“I see things in very outlined and organized ways,” she said. “My freshman year I loved the way it was run and I just wanted to give back what I got and fix the reputation of what girls perceived it to be from last year.”
McDougall brings youth and passion to the group. She has been apart of the monologues for four years and her spirit follows her with each step and it largely contributes to positive vibes the women need.
“The biggest shift is realizing how much goes into behind the scenes.” stated McDougall. “[There are] so many things that I’ve taken for granted for the past three years and now it’s cool because it’s my turn to give those wonderful experiences to these girls but it’s also [overwhelming].”
“So many faces of this cast I didn’t even know who they were before they auditioned,” McDougall exclaimed. “Now I’m getting to watch bits of their journey and help them become comfortable in their own skin and it’s friggin amazing.”
Kounadis is the most relaxed of the group. She comfortably arrives to practice in relaxed fit jeans, a flannel, or in her Springfield Women’s Swim team attire. She has been apart of the monologues for two years as a cast member and finally built up the courage to lead others to self-discovery.
“It’s kind of crazy being a leader of 76 women,” said Kounadis. “[I get to come to rehearsal] and people listen and they respect me.” she stated. “It’s really empowering and it lights my fire to continue to fight and stand up for things that I believe in.”
“I think Maddie, Liz, and I work well together,” explained Kounadis. “Liz is very organized, very good at delegating, making lists, and keeping us on track,” she said. “Maddie is a very passionate person and she puts her heart into this and you can see her creativeness show,” stated Kounadis. “I’m very analytical and I see how pieces come together and getting to work with them has made the process and transition of [becoming] a director easier.”
For the three women, going from fellow vagina member to head director has definitely shifted their perspective on certain aspects of the show.
“When you are apart of the monologues you are so focused on that one monologue, that one script, that one woman’s story but as a director you constantly are watching these stories develop.” described Carbonell. “These women are taking the same story that we hear over and over again and twisting it to new and empowering and bada** ways and it’s so beautiful to watch.”
“What we are bringing through postscript, through the monologues, through the directors monologue, through written is awareness,” Carbonell said. “Being yourself, owning your story, embracing your journey is a powerful thing for both men and women to do.”
The directors took on the optional task of creating their own monologue this year and are excited to share what they have created.
“We were talking about a directors monologue and we needed monologue to come to us, we [weren’t] gonna go searching to write one.” stated Carbonell. “The moment we read those audition sheets we were like this is it, this is our monologue. It made itself.”
“We’ve had so many powerful words spoken by the girls that we wish we could all 76 of them the chance to stand up here and tell their life story,” added McDougall. “but we gave each girl their own line that is encompassed [within] the [directors] monologue.”
When people hear the name Bob they are often curious about how it correlates with the monologues and its purpose. Bobs are allies chosen by returning vaginas who help advocate for the movement and assist with the production.
“Your Bob is someone you can call at any hour of the day or night and they’re there for you through the experience of the monologues and just life in general.” explained McDougall. “They are there to speak in those situations even when they’re not by your side and aren’t afraid to be an upstander.”
Bobs can be men or women, but cast members are encouraged to pick males so that the movement can reach a larger audience.
“The people who advocate for the show the most are the people in the show,” Carbonell said. “Bobs don’t even realize the power and capability that they have. Some of the Bobs are on the football team.” she exclaimed. “Go talk to your football boys, you’re a Bob for a reason, show people why you’re a Bob.”
“It’s important for Bobs to realize their role doesn’t end when monologues is over.” said Carbonell. “Their role should empower them to empower others. It shouldn’t just be a four day, four show event.” Carbonell stated. “They’re Bobs for life.”
When Bobs are chosen, the decision is not taken lightly and comes with weighted responsibility.
“We fight as a vaginas all the time.” said Carbonell. “It’s not just during the eight months that we rehearse. It’s not during the four day weekend. It’s in everyday fight.” Carbonell asserted. “We wake up, we fight for it, and Bobs need to be there to do just as much as we do.”
Let’s Talk Boys!
Many men, who are often well acquainted with the vagina, become skeptical after hearing it has been put into monologue form. They do not know what to expect, how to react, or if they should give the production the time of day. Hopefully this year the show will encourage men to become more knowledgeable and intimate with the complex subject.
“I think men and women can both benefit from watching this performance,” said Kounadis. “Men can get a lot out of this in the form of knowing [how] to give and receive respect.” Kounadis proclaimed. “You can’t be respected without being respectful and having them here, respecting what the women are doing hopefully changes their minds.”
Many men on campus hear about the production, but not enough of them actually go to the show.
“So many men are very eager to come buy the cool nike shirt because it says vagina,” said McDougall. “But when you say, ‘hey are you gonna come see the show?’ they’re hesitant, they’re nervous, they say they’re busy.”
Buying the shirt is still a form of showing support, but McDougall believes it is not enough.
“It takes another level of support and advocacy for men to simply come, sit down, and see what it’s all about,” she said. “Rather than just wearing a shirt that you may not fully understand or live the message behind it.”
Other men are a bit apprehensive because they feel it is just a pro-feminist, anti-man-hating show, but it is quite the contrary.
“Feminism is not women first, men suck.” Carbonell said. “Feminism is getting everybody on an even playing field. If guys would just go and hear that message I think it would be fantastic,” stated Carbonell. “But in years past Vagina Monologues has come off pretty abrasive towards men.”
The directors this year are trying their best to change that stigma.
“When women change the dynamic of how they are portraying these monologues they are opening the door for men to realize we are not fighting [men].” exclaimed Carbonell. “We are fighting for [women] to be able to do the things [men] get to do without any backlash.”
Additionally, there are men who are interested in being involved, but are unsure of how to do so.
“Someone who identifies as a man is technically not allowed to stand on stage.” explained McDougall. “But men who are not nominated as a Bob [can get involved] with S.A.V.E., the organization that puts on Vagina Monologues and none of this would be possible without them.” she said. “They are constantly in need of new members.”
“S.A.V.E. not only puts on the Vagina Monologues, but they put on so many other advocacies and events like Denim Day, White Rose campaign, and Operation Beautiful that [men] can do if they really truly are interested.” said Carbonell.
For the Culture
In past years, it has been a struggle to find a cast of women that represents all backgrounds, colors, ethnicities, sexual orientations, etc. This year, with the largest cast Springfield has seen, including 76 beautiful women, lines are being blurred and “norms” are being erased.
“In years past there have been casts of all white women and that has been one of the biggest arguments against feminism,” McDougall said. “When it’s not intersectional and it’s only about white women problems and there’s so much more that women of color face that is an [entirely different] realm.”
“It’s tough because our college is not very diversified,” exclaimed Carbonell. “So when you’re putting on a production like this and you want that diversification it’s extremely difficult to get it but I think this year has been one of the best we’ve had for a diversified cast.”
Across the board, white women are not the only stereotype found at Springfield College. Masculinity and heteronormativity seem to be at the top.
“Springfield is very small and has a very heterosexual, masculine culture and I hope the [performance] can help shift that culture.” Kounadis stated. “That needs to be changed if we really want to develop into a positive, safe, welcoming community.”
“If it weren’t for Vagina Monologues Lord knows what would happen to this campus.” said McDougall sassily. “There is such a high focus on heteronormativity and emphasis on masculinity and athletics,” she stated. “For three nights we’re shaking things up and redirecting the attention to the women that need to be heard.”
“In a way monologues really leaves an imprint on our campus in that we’re not just about sports,” said McDougall. “We’re gonna do real s*** that matters too.”
There has never been a better time in history than now for women to stand up and speak out, especially with all that has been happening in the current media.
“Hopefully it makes a bigger splash than it has in the past,” said Carbonell. “And hopefully people will want to learn and understand more and realize that what is going on now is not and will never be okay.”
“We’re getting so much influence and force from the media, #MeToo, and Time’s Up,” said McDougall. “It has power that validates us in a way that it’s not just us,” she stated. “It’s not just this tiny campus with  girls saying ‘my vagina’s angry’ it’s real and it’s global.”
With so much attention, the word is getting out, but women still can not empower themselves without the help of others.
“One of the biggest things people need to understand is this fight for gender equality is for everyone and needs everyone.” said McDougall passionately. “Equity, equality is not going to be reached.” she stated. “The oppressed populations in any dynamic whether it’s racism, gender issues, sexuality, [etc.] will not see true change until privileged people are standing by their side.”
What keeps crowds coming back each year? Is it the humor? The pretty women? The items sold during vulva palooza? Or is it the way the production makes them feel?
“There is such a small community at Springfield and I think everyone in the audience knows at least one woman on the stage,” explained Kounadis. “They’re there to support them and I think that’s what keeps them coming back.”
“I hope that [the performance] opens [people’s] eyes.” Kounadis said. “Even if they don’t agree with what we’re saying, they still think about it, and take into consideration why we got on the stage and why we are sharing our stories.”
For each of the women, the experience of being a vagina personally impacted how they thought and acted afterwards. That same enthusiasm is shared with the crowd.
“The amount of emotions the people in the audience go through for two and a half hours is intense.” described Carbonell. “I’m excited to watch the girls finish their first show, for the curtains to close, and girls to just lose it.” she said. “We have this moment where we bow and curtains close and you just hear an eruption of cheers, of crying, of joy and then you know you [get] to do it three more times.”
“Whether it’s at the end of postscript or it’s the end of bows and you look out into the audience and everyone is standing up,” said Kounadis. “Some people are laughing, some people are crying, some people are smiling and you can just see on everyone’s faces that they took away something completely different from the show.”
“I’m so excited for all of the girls in the cast to have that moment where their lives are never the same again in the best, most empowering way possible.” said McDougall with a sincere smile.
The directors wish not only to influence the women and the audience with the performance, but they hope to one day branch out and share it with the local community.
“In regards to the community I think we could do more.” Carbonell stated. “I’ve always wanted to find a local community center and do the show there, even if it’s at Annie’s House,” she said. “We don’t have the space to open it up to the community but if we could go and preach it to the community I think it would make so much more of a difference.”
“The hope is that it’s a movement and not just a production.” Carbonell clarified. “You won’t understand it until you go. It’s an experience.”
It’s a Journey
Although rewarding, the journey has not been easy for these three. Putting in extra time, work, dedication, and thought has its toll, but they do not plan on giving up the cause.
“Love is the only reason why [we haven’t given up hope].” Carbonell said. “It makes it a passion [instead] of work, and it’s worth it.”
“[The Vagina Monologues] changes your perspective on being a woman.” explained Carbonell. “You no longer feel ashamed, denied, you feel empowered, you feel knowledgeable, you feel the yearning to change what’s been broken time and time again.”
“It’s so awe inspiring that women are allowing themselves to be vulnerable and be brave and that is emulating itself in this cast tenfold.” she said.
The empowerment one experiences from being apart of the Vagina Monologues is the kind that leaves the glass half-full.
“It takes an immense amount of bravery to sign up for something and you’re not even sure what the outcome might be for others or for yourself.” explained McDougall. “It’s so valuable for myself and all women to give ourselves a voice.” she said. “You deserve to be heard to give people that power to speak for themselves.”
“No singular leader is going to stand up and create change unless they have the passion and drive behind it,” stated McDougall. “You have to be here for a reason whether it’s standing up for yourself or standing up for another woman.”
Here at Springfield women are making a change in hopes that other women worldwide will do the same.
“We are creating a resistance.” Chimed in Kounadis. “We aren’t taking any put-downs. We’re working together, fighting.”
“Women have more of a voice now than they ever have before,” said McDougall. “We are a force to be reckoned with.”
The Vagina Monologues are about so much more than the word vagina. It’s about the women within the production, the women and men who suffer from violence and abuse on a daily, for all those in need of a voice who do not know how to use it.
To Liz, it is knowledge. Awareness. Ignorance free.
To Maddie, passion. Power. Change.
To KK, welcoming. Safe. Diverse.
To women, our fuel and our fire to fight. To empower. To live on.
Many voices. One message. Until the violence stops.