One of Berkeley High School’s (BHS) most powerful traditions returns this year with the annual production of The Vagina Monologues. Every year, a cast of female-identifying students from BHS perform a selection of monologues all having to do with the female experience. Created by Eve Ensler, The Vagina Monologues is an episodic play that premiered in New York in the 1990s with a set amount of monologues.
Initially starting out as highly controversial, the show created a forum for real stories about the complexities of life as a woman. As the play continues to grow, new monologues are added to reflect current issues surrounding women.
As noted in the program, the show presented at BHS shouldn’t technically be called “The Vagina Monologues” because it draws from Ensler’s other play, I Am an Emotional Creature, which helps diversify the monologues presented. The cast also acknowledged the fact that many women don’t have vaginas and they are committed to celebrating all women. The play has remained extremely culturally relevant and every show leaves audiences completely transformed.
At the centerpiece of every performance of The Vagina Monologues is the incredible acting by each performer. The monologues deal with heavy subject matter like rape and abuse and the actresses don’t shy away from portraying the rawness of these situations. In addition to the mainstay monologues that are presented every year, some new monologues were added that made the show skew more to the darker elements. The monologue “Sky, Sky, Sky,” told a gripping story in the form of a statement to her deceased loved one. It centers around a woman in the middle of the conflict between Israel and Palestine whose loved one just died due to his position as a suicide bomber. This added to the already global perspective of The Vagina Monologues since it also features stories of Japanese comfort women and Bosnian victims of rape.
Another new facet this year was the reworking of a classic monologue, “I Am An Emotional Creature,” into a song. This new version was composed by BHS junior Daphne Eleftheriadou, whose beautiful singing was accompanied by a dance performed by BHS sophomore Nina Kelley.
Watching the show is incredibly empowering and eye-opening. BHS junior Lena Haber said, “I love The Vagina Monologues because I get to hear about women’s experiences and issues that usually go unspoken.” Speaking about all of these issues in society that are usually deemed taboo helps to destigmatize and shine a light on them. Haber discussed how in senior Lydia Macy’s monologue, “Angry Vagina,” hearing all the girls laugh in the audience when her character screams about the frustrations of tampons was so enjoyable for her. “It’s all the things girls talk about with each other actually being normalized and yelled to the world,” said Haber.
Not only does The Vagina Monologues impact its viewers, but as Eleftheriadou pointed out, it especially empowers the performers. “Being in The Vagina Monologues has definitely shaped me into who I am. It’s the experience of being surrounded by powerful, grounded women that’s inexplicably amazing and inspiring,” she said. “It can inspire, change one’s views, make you feel things you’ve never felt about the world before, but most importantly, if The Vagina Monologues leaves you forever remembering these women’s stories, we as a cast have done our job right.”
In the hands of directors Pia Shen-Berro and Simone Ewell-Szabo, The Vagina Monologues at Berkeley High has once again served as a rallying cry of unity and a call to end the continuous oppression of women, while simultaneously celebrating every beautiful aspect of femininity. It is one of the most important theatrical productions around.
As perfectly stated in the show: “we believe what we don’t say, we don’t see, acknowledge, or remember.” Eleftheriadou said, “Your most powerful tool is your voice. Never be silent.” And that is exactly the message that The Vagina Monologues has left with its audience.
Disclaimer: multiple members of the Jacket Editorial Board are involved in the performance and production of The Vagina Monologues.