“The Vagina Monologues” will be staged at UCLA for the 12th year this weekend. The “Monologues,” performances that detail women’s sexual experiences – many sad, hilarious and empowering – were first published by activist and writer Eve Ensler in 1996.
The performances will cap off nearly two weeks of programs at UCLA that are centered on gender inequity issues, including self-defense and trauma intervention workshops, panels on the intersection of gender and hip-hop and other events organized by the Social Awareness Network for Activism through Art. Network coordinators were inspired by Ensler’s global campaign, “One Billion Rising,” which rallied individuals to together on Valentine’s Day to speak out and stand up for the one billion women worldwide who will be raped or beaten in their lifetime. UCLA Office of Residential Life and Reproductive Health Interest Group are also co-organizing the monologues.
As a fellow thespian (I’m a writer and performer in the student-run LCC Theatre Company), I was curious to know how the rehearsal process is for the “Monologue” performers. To get an idea of what to expect at this year’s “Vagina Monologues,” I interviewed Elspeth Maurer, a third-year English student, and Alexandra Petro, a fourth-year music history and music industry student. The performers shared some insights about the rehearsal process and what the show means to them.
Mojo: What made you want to audition for this show?
Elspeth Maurer: My roommate, Ariel, is also one of the cast members, she talked about how she was going to go and perform and that I should tag along and see what’s going on … so I was like “Yeah, sure, why not?” And I auditioned, and I was really happy about it. I was like, “Yeah! I get to do something.”
Alexandra Petro: I auditioned because I had a friend in Cultural Affairs Commission last year who did it, and I was running lines with her one day, and I was like, “Whoa, what is this? This is crazy.”
I think it’s great what it’s doing. I think the concept of One Billion Rising and V-Day is really good, and I really love art for a purpose, like activist arts, so I decided to audition.
Mojo: Have there been any special exercises you’ve done to get into character?
AP: There’s a lot of moaning (laughs).
EM: We had a retreat, so we went over to an apartment, and we just talked and we really were able to open up as a group and to get to know each other, so it made us feel more comfortable around each other especially when we started some of the moaning scenes and some of the more interactive acting.
Mojo: Can you talk a little bit about your monologues and the women you’re portraying?
AP: My particular monologue is called “Cunt.” My character is supposed to be a really energetic, young, artsy, musical theater lover. And she basically does a spoken word poetry about how much she loves this word, “cunt.” And it’s fun, we made it so that I sing parts and say parts. So it’s pretty crazy. There’s like crowd involvement. I don’t want to give it away, but we get the crowd pumped, and they interact.
EM: The monologue that I’m doing is called “Hair,” which is the first monologue of the play and I’ll be talking about my pubic hair pretty much. That’s what the whole thing is about. And the character I’m portraying is a woman who tries to make her marriage work. … And she gets attacked, not in a literal sense, but her husband accuses her of not wanting to please him. They go to marital therapy. The marital therapist accuses her of not wanting to make this whole marriage work, and it’s kind of that whole idea that she chooses to make her marriage work, and at the same time, she abandons herself. It’s all about realizing that if you want to be in a healthy relationship, and if you want to be happy, you have to be happy with who you are. So it’s a very multi-layered play.
AP: It’s going to be happy and sad and shocking and all that stuff.
EM: Some of the monologues, I flat-out cry. Like, I read them and I hear about how some of them will be performed, and I swear to you come Friday evening, I’ll probably be bawling onstage.
Mojo: Have you done anything to get into character?
AP: Well, we had to basically write the little melodies into my monologue, so it’s been a lot of work trying to figure out how to come in and out of talking and stuff. So I guess just working on that has helped me to really figure out what I’m doing. Mine’s become a project.
EM: Mine doesn’t really need a lot. Whenever I do my practices with one of the directors, it’s always getting into that mind frame of one moment I’m really, really angry and the other moment I’m sad and then another moment I’m in a euphoric state, so how I get into character is I just read the words. And I become the words is probably how I would best describe it.
“The Vagina Monologues” will be playing in the De Neve Learning Auditorium Feb. 22 at 7 p.m. and Feb. 23 at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Admission is free, but all donations go to help the V-Day campaign and Los Angeles’ Downtown Women’s Center.