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Feb. 9, 2007

Monologues performance features students, alumnae

by Samantha Beres

It's a performance that celebrates womanhood and female sexuality - one that brings together actresses, activists and feminists to read on stage. It's also part of a global campaign to raise money and awareness to stop violence against women and girls.

Iowa State students and alumnae will perform The Vagina Monologues Feb. 13, 15 and 19 at 7 p.m. in the Maintenance Shop, Memorial Union.

For those who have seen it, The Vagina Monologues needs little explaining. For those less familiar with this play, well, the title explains one topic that is covered quite well. The stories portray women of all ages, races and backgrounds, talking about their experiences with sexuality - stories of intimacy, vulnerability and self-discovery.

"This performance is about how women are treated in society," said Penny Rice, director of the Margaret Sloss Women's Center. "It increases awareness in our community of violence and life experiences women in our world have today and it includes experiences that we need to talk more about."

Those experiences are vast. One hilarious monologue is a lament about the discomforts of thong underwear, tampons and gynecological exams. On the other side of the spectrum, "Crooked Braid" is a Native American woman's story of the brutal abuse she suffers at the hand of her husband, and how she cuts off his long braid as revenge.

Playwright and actress Eve Ensler interviewed hundreds of women to write The Vagina Monologues. As she performed the play in venues big and small, hundreds of women approached her after performances to tell their stories. This led to the founding of V-day in 1998, a movement dedicated to ending violence against women. V-day College Campaign invites colleges and universities to present benefit productions of The Vagina Monologues on campus.

Graduate student Alissa Stoehr was instrumental in bringing the play to campus as an undergraduate in 2001, but this will be the first time she performs in it. Part of her goal, she said, is to get students in her Introduction to Women's Studies class interested. Personally, Stoehr added, it's a celebration.

"In our society, the women deemed beautiful are white, skinny, big-breasted and usually blond," Stoehr said. "Overweight women, like myself, are often not considered valuable members of society, but The Vagina Monologues is one of the best ways for all women to celebrate their bodies."

Sophomore Aly Peeler, who will read "Six Year Old," added that the play is empowering for women, but is not exclusively for women.

"These stories bring everyone together," Peeler said. "You come out of it with a deeper appreciation and understanding of womanhood, and it's something men should hear, too." Peeler's father is planning to attend.

Alumna Katie Davidson, who will read "Because He Liked to Look At It," said that some people are a little thrown by the title of the play, and by hearing the word "vagina." But the performance will take care of that.

"People get to the point where they're not afraid to hear the word 'vagina' or say the word 'vagina,'" Davidson said. "I think the absence of fear is what we want the end result to be."

Twenty-five women will take part in the performance, which runs approximately 90 minutes. Advance tickets are $12 ($10 for students), and $1 more the day of performances. Purchase tickets in the East Student office space or the front desk in Memorial Union, or by calling the Maintenance Shop ticket line at 4-8349. The money raised for this production will go to ACCESS, an Ames shelter for women and children who are victims of violence.



Alumna Katie Davidson does a practice run of the monologues she'll perform. She is one of 25 women who will read from The Vagina Monologues. Photos by Bob Elbert.