Putting the ‘V’ in Valentine’s Day
Students, staff star in campus production of ‘Vagina Monologues’

By Cathy Cockrell, Public Affairs



29 January 2003 | All week people have been flocking to the Sproul Plaza table with the big, pink heart sign, where tickets went on sale this Monday for the campus’s third annual benefit production of “The Vagina Monologues.” Playwright Eve Ensler has brought audiences around the country and abroad to laughter and tears with her series of monologues on the v-word, based on interviews with more than 200 women. But tickets to theater-district performances come at a (high) price, which is one reason for the brisk ticket sales on Sproul: one can attend the campus production for just $8.

Another appeal is the excitement of seeing 20 Berkeley undergrad and grad students, plus staff, a senior administrator, and local performers, embody Ensler’s interviewees. On three consecutive evenings — Wednesday, Feb. 12 through Friday, Feb. 14 — Dean of Students Karen Kenney, in a reprise appearance from last year, will play both a grown-up interrogator and a child in the monologue “Six-Year-Old Girl Was Asked.” (“’What is special about your vagina?’ ‘Somewhere deep inside it has a really, really smart brain.’ ‘What does it smell like?’ ‘Snowflakes.’”) The cast of 25 also includes Graduate Assembly President Jessica Quindel, providing an introductory monologue, as well as an array of happy, not-so-happy, and outrageous “vagina facts” throughout the evening.

Because V-Day 2003 is highlighting indigenous women and organizations combatting violence in their communities, the evening in 115 Dwinelle Hall will open with “Cheyenne Woman,” written by California Alumni Association program manager Tara Young and Berkeley student P.J. MacAlpine. The former, who is part Cherokee and Creek, performs the piece, which describes atrocities against Cheyenne women during the Sand Creek Massacre of 1864, as well as more contemporary examples of violence against women in Indian country.

“I’m really excited to do this,” says Young, who performed the monologue “Because You Like to Look at It” in last year’s V-Day event. “You had 22 women performing … experiences of pleasure and experiences of agony. It was awesome.”

Berkeley is one of some 600 campuses staging “The Vagina Monologues” on or around Valentine’s Day under the auspices of Ensler’s organization, V-Day, a non-profit that raises consciousness and funds to help end violence against women and girls. (The “V” stands for valentine, victory over violence, and, of course, vagina.) The organization’s College Campaign provides the script — some years with a new monologue or two in addition to Ensler’s originals — while student producers recruit the talent and donate the proceeds to non-profit organizations of their choice.

For V-Day 2003, colleges are invited to write and perform two new monologues — one by a woman, one by a man — addressing the question, “What would your community look like without violence?” With an esprit du corps that is signature Berkeley, the campus’s Gender Equity Resource Center has opted “to challenge the definitions of man and woman in our monologues,” says Gen-Equity program assistant Mike Modula. Hence a local transgender hip-hopper of color will perform the man’s monologue, while a San Francisco spoken-word champion and intersex activist authored the woman’s piece. (“Intersex” refers to people born with non-standard male or female anatomy.)

All proceeds from the performances will go to three local organizations — Deaf Women Against Violence, the Intersex Society of North America, and a campus student organization, Sexual Harrassment/Assault Advocacy and Peer Education, a.k.a. SHAPE — and to indigenous women’s organizations in the United States and Canada.

If you miss out on the lightning-quick ticket sales, there’s still a chance to score a seat: student organizers are holding back a few tickets to distribute during a noontime promotional event on Sproul Plaza Feb. 12. Cosponsors include the Gender Equity Resource Center, the Office of Student Life, Good Vibrations, and the Berkeley chapter of the National Organization for Women.


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