Students who were taken aback by animate vaginas wandering through the Arbor can expect tears, laughter and storytelling from the Women’s Ensemble Theatre Troupe this weekend.
The group will present The Vagina Monologues & Herstories on Friday at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. to explore the realm of “BDSM, immigration, the gaming industry for women and so much more” according to Bridget Kyeremateng, director and fourth-year black studies and feminist studies double major.
The Vagina Monologues & Herstories at UCSB offers an insightful look into the feminine experience. All proceeds from the event will be donated to the Santa Barbara Rape Crisis Center.
Unique to UCSB is the inclusion of herstories, a storytelling portion built on students’ experiences. According to Kyeremateng, UCSB may discontinue The Vagina Monologues in coming years to focus solely on Herstories. Herstories involves first-hand prose written by students, creating an even stronger bond with the campus and community. The portion will be directed by Rachel Gregory.
One of Kyeremateng’s key influences on the production has been the addition of diversity.
“The feminist movement is rising, and Herstories brings up a more diverse cast that The Vagina Monologues tend to not have,” Kyeremateng, who is a veteran of the production, said. “Looking back, the troupe was not as diverse as it could have been.”
The show stresses the importance of representation, she said, with this year’s cast including a bigender member for the first time.
While The Vagina Monologues alone are wonderfully informative, Kyeremateng said the name can exclude certain experiences; for example, someone who identifies as a woman may not be able to participate in childbirth, thus excluding LGBTQ+ identities. Kyeremateng is also performing her own prose piece this year on being an undocumented black woman in the United States.
Sophie Swezey, an actress working on the monologue “The Vagina Workshop” said her piece is about a middle-aged woman who goes to a “vagina workshop” to learn more about her vagina and how to make herself orgasm. She goes through a transformational experience, finds her clitoris and ultimately learns how to make herself orgasm.
“We live in a society that tends to discourage women from exploring themselves, touching themselves, and talking about their vaginas,” she said in an email. “I think in essence that’s the most powerful part of The Vagina monologues — that women are talking about their experiences and discussing ‘taboo topics.’”
While never having had this woman’s exact experience, Swezey identifies with her character in terms of self-confidence and comfort with one’s body, issues many women face.
The Vagina Monologues intend to be a uniting and empowering show for women, but Kyeremateng said, “It’s not exclusive to just women; in order for the feminist movement to work, we need to get our allies involved.”
For those who are uncomfortable attending an event where women openly discuss vaginas, actress Rose Houska said, “It’s okay to be uncomfortable. These are things we are not ‘supposed’ to talk about, so naturally it’s [going to] be uncomfortable.”
Tickets can be found online here, at the A.S. Ticket Office or at the door at Campbell Hall.