‘Vagina Monologues’ come back to Washburn after five-year hiatus

Travis Perry

With angry vaginas, condoms stuffed with tennis balls and actors encouraging the audience to scream ‘cunt,’ the recent production of “The Vagina Monologues” was far from an ordinary theatre experience.

Produced by Sharon Sullivan, Washburn theater professor, and aided with the talent of students and Topeka community members alike, Eve Ensler’s “The Vagina Monologues” was brought back to campus after a five-year hiatus in celebration of the 10th anniversary of V-Day.

“We opened up auditions to anyone who was interested,” said Sullivan.

While there were 15 women on stage who helped bring the performance to life, Sullivan said that performing wasn’t for everyone. Behind the scenes were easily four times the number of performers, said Sullivan, to help bring the show together.

Even with international recognition, Sullivan said she is still baffled by the opposition the play faces in some areas.

“One of the things that is so frustrating is that after 10 years around the world people are still protesting for saying the word ‘vagina,’ even though it’s in the title of the play,” said Sullivan. “I don’t understand why it’s so taboo in our culture when really, it’s the proper term.”

Preceding the performance was what Sullivan touted as “Vulvapalooza,” where different booths were set up to educate women on everything from domestic abuse assistance to birth control. The Teen Pregnancy Prevention program of Topeka set up one of the tables attracting the most attention. Staffed by community members Candice Simmons, Cindy Nelson, Amy Pinger and Deb Rukes, the group busted the myth some men use that condoms simply won’t fit onto their ‘member.’ Attendees were encouraged to see how many tennis balls they could fit into a single condom. Thirty-seven was the record of the night.

“We’re out to encourage young people to make wise sexual decisions,” said Rukes.

After being moved from the Bradbury Thompson Alumni Center to the Andrew J. and Georgia Neese Gray Theatre because of an overwhelming demand for tickets, Sullivan and her crew managed to pull together a performance by which many audience members left feeling very impacted.

Written by playwright Eve Ensler after interviewing more than 200 women of multiple ages, nationalities and creeds, “The Vagina Monologues” is based upon actual stories from these women. While Ensler owns the rights to the play, she allows groups worldwide to license the performance free of charge under the condition that it is used to raise money for local organizations to help women. The Washburn productions benefited the Battered Women’s Task Force and the Katrina Warriors.