In their annual rendition of Eve Ensler’s play, The Vagina Monologues, UBC’s very own VDAY club featured a series of emotionally captivating performances depicting female experiences and everyday struggles in contemporary society. For the month of February, the club has been following the tradition of putting on performances to benefit rape centres such as Women Against Violence Against Women and UBC Sexual Assault Support Centre, a tradition started by no other than Eve Ensler herself.
Directed by Natalie Backerman, the performance was carried out by a cast and crew of 21 members, with the majority being UBC students and alumni. The all-female cast showed a wide array of emotions complemented by well-executed lighting cues, monochromatic clothing and chocolate vulva lollipops, all to showcase the play’s deeply-rooted feminist values and the beauty of the “penis fly trap.”
“Our club’s main objective is to open people’s eyes and showcase the constant struggles women face,” said Danika Enad, a senior member of the club and a recurring participant of the annual production. “We want to empower women and we want to celebrate women. But ultimately, we just want to spread love.”
The structure of the play resembled that of a documentary or a visual portrayal of diary chapters with calming voiceovers and episodic scenes. The highly minimalistic set decor in the Nest’s Performance Black Box Theatre filled with orgasmic sounds was very reminiscent of the modest, down-to-earth artistic culture of the 90s — around the same time the play was originally premiered in an off-Broadway New York theatre. The swift setting changes and seamless transitions from one scene to the next created the illusion of the natural passing of time, resulting in a more authentic performance. The clever manipulation of the limited props created a subjective idea of space around the performers that allowed the audience to imagine a stage setting based only on what each character’s props were, further adding to the authenticity of the play.
However, the actors' performances were without a doubt the biggest contributors to the authentic and organic tone of the play. Every scene and monologue was executed with the utmost dedication and commitment, forming a bond of trust between the audience members and the cast. From scenes of female adversity to saucy anecdotes about wet vaginas, the palpable energy that inhabited the room during peak moments of laughter was never lost in midst of the performances’ “not-so-happy” facts. These performances also educated the audience and helped support advocacy for body awareness, self-love and sexual exploration.
The actors were able to portray a variety of diverse roles with dynamic character backgrounds in a very small period of time, in spite of the serious lack of diversity within the cast themselves. An issue often overlooked is the lack of racial diversity, which is a very suggestive testament to the exclusivity and definitions of feminism and the ideal standard of a feminist. The play does promote the idea of empowering oneself through loving something as overly shamed as the female genitalia, but it still carries existing and potentially controversial elements and flaws.
Overall, Backerman’s rendition of The Vagina Monologues was as much of a delight to see as it seemed for the actors to perform. It is truly a series of captivating scenes paired with the welcoming atmosphere of empowering feminism.