Kate McLaughlin ‘21
On February 13 and 14, dozens of students gathered in the Hogan Ballroom for Holy Cross’ seventeenth annual performance of “The Vagina Monologues.” Sponsored by the SGA Office of Diversity, Relationship Peer Educators, and HC Feminist Forum and directed by Lizzie Flynn ‘19 and Grace Burke ‘21, the all-female show consisted of 17 monologues. In lieu of ticket prices, donations were collected for Abby’s House, a nonprofit in Worcester that provides shelter, affordable housing, and support services to homeless, battered, and low-income women.
“The Vagina Monologues” was written by playwright and activist Eve Ensler, who wrote the play in 1996 to “celebrate the vagina” and to help end violence against women around the world. Ensler compiled information from interviews that she conducted with 200 women across a wide spectrum of ages, races, geographies, and sexual orientations. The pieces explore consensual and non-consensual sex, sex work, and struggles with body image, among other related themes. In 2006, The New York Times called the play “probably the most important piece of political theater in the last decade.”
This year’s “The Vagina Monologues” explored an equally diverse set of themes. From sophomores Anne Borzner and Mishie Macy’s powerful “My Vagina Was My Village” (a compilation of testimonies of Bosnian women subjected to rape camps), to sophomores Anna Fantozzi and Caylie Whiteside’s hilarious “My Angry Vagina” (a comedic rant about the injustices wrought against the vagina) to senior MJ Diao’s gutsy presentation of different types of sexual moaning in “The Woman Who Loved to Make Vaginas Happy,” the monologues elicited a variety of reactions from the audience–ranging from tears to hysterical laughter.
The performance also included three monologues that were submitted as testimonials from the Holy Cross Community. “Up the Sleeve,” written and performed by Annie Hentschel ‘19, is a spirited and funny examination of the stigma surrounding periods and a call to stop hiding menstruation. The other testimonials (“To Tell Your Story,” which depicts the long and isolating process of reporting rape to Holy Cross’ Title IX Office and “Piano Playing,” which explores a young girl’s first experiences with her sexuality) were submitted anonymously.
When “The Vagina Monologues” were first performed at Holy Cross in 2002, the College received backlash from students and alumni who believed that the monologues were too vulgar and inappropriate to be performed at a Catholic school. Many impassioned emails and letters, both in support of and in protest of the monologues, followed the show’s debut. One alum even wrote: “My first reaction was disbelief, then outrage, and finally very deep disappointment. In sponsoring, publicizing, and endorsing this presentation, Holy Cross has abandoned its reputation for high standards, decency, and values and instead sought to justify its surrender to the unprincipled ‘new culture,’” according to Elizabeth Walker’s Spring 2002 piece in The Holy Cross Magazine.
Despite this being the seventeenth iteration of the “Monologues” at Holy Cross, co-director Lizzie Flynn thinks that they had a particularly special meaning this year. The show took place only a week after 350 Holy Cross students held a two-day “Sit-In” outside President Rev. Philip L. Boroughs’ Office to protest what they called the College’s slow and unsatisfactory response to alleged sexual assault allegations against Philosophy Professor Christopher A. Dustin.
FemFo Presents 17th Annual “Vagina Monologues”
“I think the monologues were extremely important this year to continue the conversations on Title IX, and coming to terms with what the actual culture of this campus is, as opposed to what people think it is. Grace and I were thrilled with the high turnout both nights of the show, and we think that the Sit-In and current campus climate were huge in getting people to come to a show they might not have attended normally,” Flynn said.
The candidness and vulnerability of the monologues and testimonials honored both the diverse experiences of students at Holy Cross and the combined efforts of those attempting to better what many see as the toxic and dangerous culture surrounding sexual harassment and assault on campus. Flynn added, “It was honestly surreal at times, watching all of these women perform. All of them were so talented and had so much passion for the show…Directing definitely changed my perspective on the show, and helped me to have a brand new appreciation for all of the pieces Holy Cross typically incorporates into ‘The Vagina Monologues,’ and how they all play into and build off of one another.”
Enjoy our complete gallery of the performance below. All photos by Kim Fetherston ’22.