Last Saturday, V-Day Purdue presented a benefit showing of The Vagina Monologues. Written by award-winning playwright Eve Ensler, the play places a spotlight on the voices of a diverse group of women. From a Bosnian survivor of rape to a six-year old girl, The Vagina Monologues covers a wide breadth of female experience.
The monologues were performed as a part of V-Day, a global movement to end violence against women. Benefit showings of The Vagina Monologues are organized to raise money to support groups working to end violence and serve survivors and their families. The proceeds from V-Day Purdue’s showing will be donated to Greater Lafayette YWCA’s Domestic Violence Intervention and Prevention Program. Together, V-Day organizers around the world have raised over $100 million to date.
Purdue students Grace Steward and Kellie Hageman organized this year’s events. Both did an incredible job putting the show together and found the experience to be very meaningful. “This show holds a very special place in my heart”, explains Hageman, “because it tells the stories of so many different women with the dignity and respect they deserve. As the assistant director, it was an honor to work alongside Grace Steward, our director, and this amazing cast of beautiful and talented women to give all the women in the show a unique and empowered voice”.
This theme of shining a light on women’s stories also resonated with Steward. “When I first saw The Vagina Monologues at the University of Pittsburgh a few years ago, it really changed my perspective”, she said. “Many of the monologues performed that night have not left me, and it made me less afraid to be vocal about women’s issues, especially those related to sexual double standards and violence”. Steward also found working with fellow Purdue students especially rewarding. “I wanted to share this play with Purdue University, and benefit the community here, and I had the help of a wonderful and talented group of young women to do so”.
All of the monologues were performed by female cast members, many as a solo but some as a group. “Working with an all-female cast was a really special experience”, said Steward. “In theater arts, it can be really hard to find plays that develop strong female characters with multidimensional characteristics”. The play was also important for building a sense of community for Steward who said, “I think we found some sisterhood on campus that, at least in the STEM fields where most of us major, is really hard to find”.
The show received significant support. “It was also really encouraging to see the great number of people who came out to support the cause”, said Hageman. “I could not be happier with the show we were able to put on”. “We ended up raising $465 for the YWCA’s program”, said Steward. “I’m really glad to know that it will make a difference in other women’s lives”.
Works of art like The Vagina Monologues are incredibly important for dealing women’s issues today. Last year, the West Lafayette Police reported 19 domestic battery arrests, 1 child exploitation arrest, 11 rape by force cases, and 12 cases of sexual offense. These problems are close to home and it is imperative that groups like V-Day Purdue take measures to fight them.