MORF performs exhibition of female pride
This past Monday, Feb. 15, I was able to witness the sheer splendor that was The Vagina Monologues, produced and performed by members of Carnegie Mellon’s Mobilization of Resolute Feminists (MORF) organization and directed by senior science and humanities scholar, Sophie Zucker. This social-experiment-turned-production is one of my favorites, and while it may be “the classic ‘college feminist’ production,” according to the show’s pamphlet, I truly believe it’s an important piece for one to experience. As a cisgender male, I will never be able to actually perform in this production, but I can sure watch and listen to it whenever I get the chance.
There were several amazing moments in this production. Staged in the Cohon Center’s Peter/Wright/McKenna rooms, with just a row of wrinkly red curtains as a backdrop, no lighting other than the overhead fluorescents, and a room not quite conducive to vocal projection, the show appeared at face-value to be a little under-budget. But consider for a moment that only two years ago, MORF had only three members and was just getting off its feet at this university. Since this organization’s number one mission is not theatre, but the advancement of woman’s rights and freedoms, any critical reader should step back and realize how fantastic this production actually was.
The namesake “Vagina Monologues” transcend the stage on which they are performed. They are a written chorus of voices, and in line with that, it’s rather lovely how spare the setting was. The Vagina Monologues are a set of spoken pieces which were
the product of their author, Eve Ensler’s, mission to interview women about their vaginas. The result is a powerful and hysterical production.
Moving onto the actual performance, the scene was set by junior dramaturg Margaret Marchese, graduate music student Katie Russell, and junior architecture major Victoria Yong, who recited the monologues’s introduction. The trio did a wonderful job at conveying their collective “worry” about vaginas, and their comedic timing when describing the various nicknames women had for their vaginas (the best of which being “poopi,” “poopelu,” and “Gladys Seagelman”) was lovely. Through the entirety of this production, each participant held note cards, which for any other production would be a travesty, but for this production, the note cards were apparently mandated by the monologues’ directing rules, which state that one must perform them with a script of some kind to remind the audience that the stories were taken from real women across the world, not simply the lone actress’s experiences.
The performance began with Hair, performed by sophomore English, history, and chemistry major, Karishma Manglani. Manglani held a very nice tone throughout; as she recited this monologue, she hit on some of the deeply emotional aspects. She was vulnerable when she needed to be, when reciting the portion about being forcefully shaved by her husband, and overall, her portrayal of this monologue’s voice was very nicely done. This monologue strikes a chord in anyone who has been told to change to “please” his or her spouse, and it tackles a rather prevalent idea that women must shave to be attractive.
The Wear and Say Lists, performed by sophomore statistics major Lilian Chin, philosophy and psychology senior Naomi Berman, and drama sophomore Kate Burgess, is one of my favorite portions of this show. It’s all about asking women what their vaginas would say and wear if they were capable of coherent speech and could actually dress up. My favorite options are always “something machine washable,” “lace and combat boots,” and “an electrical shock device to keep unwanted strangers away” for the question of “what would [your vagina] wear,” and “remember me?” and “come inside” for the question of “what would [your vagina] say?”
One of the most poignant pieces from this production was The Little Coochie Snorcher That Could, performed by junior science and humanities scholar Alexandria Moriarty. This monologue details a girl’s evolution of vaginal experience, from accidentally impaling her vagina on a bedpost, to being sexually assaulted, to finally being sexually enlightened by a self-empowered feminist woman. It was a very well done performance, and though Moriarty kept using the word “coochie snorcher,” the seriousness of the content and the overall solemn excitement of much of this piece was kept in-tact and respected.
Out of all of the monologues, three of them really stood out to me performance-wise. Out of the many monologues, I have always been partial to The Flood, which is my absolute favorite, about an old woman who had never had sex because she would always get a little too excited. I also love My Angry Vagina and The Woman Who Loved to Make Vaginas Happy, especially in this production.
The Flood, performed by junior creative writing and philosophy student Ariel Hoffmaier, is always my clear favorite, just because I adore the character of this monologue, and if I were at all able to perform it, I would. Hoffmaier is naturally a beautiful fit for the role of an old Jewish woman, and her portrayal was pretty much spot-on to how I pictured this scene unfolding in my head. I particularly love the portion where the woman talks about her dreams about partying with Burt Reynolds, and how they were so happy, until she would inevitably flood the whole restaurant with her excitement.
My Angry Vagina is a great piece. Performed by Heather Graci, a freshman in Dietrich College, this monologue tackles the discomfort of examination and artificial vagina care products, such as tampons and freshening products. Graci’s acting was lovely and hysterical; she really understood the furious comedy of the piece and was able to deliver a humorous and striking performance.
The Woman Who Loved to Make Vaginas Happy, performed by sophomore music student Jacqueline Tardanico, seemed to be far and away the crowd’s favorite performance. Tardanico committed to this role. This monologue describes a woman who used to be a lawyer, but is now a lesbian sex worker, who loves making women moan. This monologue, when spoken, has a wide range of possibilities; around the final portion of the monologue is a list of moan types, and with each one, Tardanico actually got onto the floor and acted out each of them. In detail. She had obviously done her research because her moans were spot-on and spectacular. Needless to say, the audience was living for her beautiful, howling rendition of a lesbian sex worker pleasuring her moaning partners.
The Vagina Monologues is such a powerful exhibition of womanhood and female pride that its got me wishing that, if only for a second, I too could be proud of my vagina.