Women speak up on ‘down there’

“The Vagina Monologues” is a play with so much buzz behind it that it couldn’t possibly be as good as it sounds, but it is. This past weekend, The Firehouse Theater featured the third annual production of “The Vagina Monologues,” in which all of the proceeds would benefit the Richmond YWCA’s Women Advocacy Program. It showed exactly why the play has been so acclaimed.

The women performing the monologues were diverse in every possible way, and VCU student and director Ann Marie Gardinier explained that it was fully intentional. They ranged from college students to middle-aged women to senior citizens and they were all captivating and charismatic as they spoke about the joy and hardships of dealing with the vagina. Each segment or monologue of the play was taken from interviews where women revealed their personal stories about the female genitalia.

“The Flood” was a monologue performed by Chris Bass Randolph, a seasoned actress who has won two Phoebe Awards, and it was taken from an interview with a 72-year-old woman. Randolph was hysterical as she squirmed at the questions that the imaginary interviewer was asking her. Her story was about a time when the woman was much younger and went on a date with a boy who she had a crush on. The boy spontaneously kissed her and she had to deal with the “flood” that gushed between her legs afterward, even leaving a stain on the seat of his car. Chris Bass Randolph was adorable as she embodied the conservative older lady who would only refer to her vagina as “down there.”

Another great part of the play was “The Vagina Workshop,” where Kristen Swanson recounted a woman’s story of finding pleasure by herself on a mat with an instructor/coach by her side. Swanson had some of the greatest lines in the play, like speaking of her vagina as a vacuum, and exclaiming to the woman at the workshop that she had lost her clitoris. The monologue was more than just one-liners. The way that Swanson explained how a woman could find herself as she finds her clitoris was sweet and funny.

Sharalyn Bailey was one of the funniest women in the cast. Her part in “My Angry Vagina” had the audience crying from laughter. She condemned “vagina mother f—-s,” such as tampons and douches in such a passionate way that even the men in the audience seemed to feel what she was saying. And as the displayer of the “African American moan,” which was basically her grinding and screaming “oh s–t,” in “The Woman Who Loved to Make Vaginas Happy,” was beyond comical.

Jessica Clay did a wonderful job rounding out the play and focusing on a more serious vagina problem in “My Vagina Was My Village.” This monologue was inspired by Bosnian women who were interviewed for the play. Clay began speaking of how wonderful her vagina was– sunny, chatty, bright– and then went into a description of being raped by a group of military men. She told how the men shoved guns and broomsticks inside her. In one of the most graphic and poignant moments of the play, she spoke of a piece of her vagina coming off in her hand. That portion was necessary because it brought attention back to the woman’s shelter that was being supported. It was well executed considering that it was Clay’s acting debut.

Heather Burgher, a 21-year-old VCU theater and child psychology major, was anoTher outstanding performer with the monologue “The Little Coochi Snorcher That Could.” This monologue told the story of a woman whose “coochie snorcher” had been hurt in many ways, which included being raped. At age 16, she found solace in a lesbian experience with an older woman. Burgher engaged the audience with the powerful memories that she spoke of, especially the vivacious way in which she described the lesbian experience. “[The Vagina Monologues was] a new experience. I personally feel that if you’re going into the field of acting, you have to try everything. It was liberating because it was more about what you feel about yourself,” said Burgher.

“The Woman Who Loved to Make Vaginas Happy” was the hilarious story of a female sex worker who only worked with women. Melanie Mitchell, a 21-year-old VCU theater student, was the performer of this monologue, and she did it with flair. From speaking of men not appreciating her tendency to moan in bed to the point where she ushered every woman in the cast out to perform various moans, Mitchell commanded the audience’s attention. “I never knew there were so many moans in the world,” quipped Mitchell. She will perform in the upcoming VCU musical “Hair.”

Kimberly Weeda, a 21- year- old VCU theater major, was responsible for two memorable performances in the play. The first was of a 6-year-old girl speaking about her vagina. Weeda said that if her vagina could speak it would say words beginning with “v” and “t.” “Turtle and vagina are examples,” she stated. The monologue that she performed was titled “My Short Skirt,” and it could be considered an anthem for women. She spoke of things such as how her skirt and everything under it belonged to her and no one else. Weeda said, “I absolutely loved [being a part of The Vagina Monologues]. I never really thought about my vagina before I got the part. And I think it’s great that they’re trying to do something [with donating to the YWCA].”

From pubic hair to giving birth, “The Vagina Monologues” touched on nearly every subject related to a woman’s “down there.” “I love vaginas,” exclaimed Melanie Mitchell. Don’t we all?

“Curse of the Starving Class” will begin at the Firehouse Theater March 6. Any person who is interested in seeing the show free of charge can call 355-2001 to inquire about ushering.

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