Tonight, Isla Vista Theater will be overflowing with vaginas.
Women’s Ensemble Theater Troupe, better known as WETT, will be presenting “The Vagina Monologues” at I.V. Theater tonight at 6:15. Follow-up performances will be held Feb. 21 and 22. The shows are not yet sold out and tickets are $7 at the door. Proceeds from the performances will benefit domestic violence prevention and victims’ aid programs in the Santa Barbara area.
The monologues, performed by a 41-member cast and crew, are being directed and produced by WETT, a group that was created to provide a forum for theater performances at UCSB outside the Dramatic Art Dept. It is the third year the group has performed the popular series of monologues concerning female genitalia. The cast has been rehearsing daily since the beginning of the quarter and recently stepped up its rehearsal schedule to about 30 hours a week.
“I breathe ‘The Vagina Monologues’ 24 hours a day,” Co-director and senior French and English major Mimmi Juslin said.
WETT was established in fall 1999 as a small group of female UCSB students interested in performing theater and began early on focusing their attention on “The Vagina Monologues.”
“We decided to do ‘The Vagina Monologues’ after seeing an interview Oprah did with Eve Ensler and found out V-day has a college campaign,” Juslin said. “It was like ‘click,’ ‘we should do that.’ So we read the monologues and talked to people, and they didn’t know what the ‘Vagina Monologues’ were.”
The troupe has been preparing for this year’s performance a year in advance with fundraisers to gain enough money for its $3,000 production budget. The troupe also received sponsorship from student groups, private individuals and businesses.
“We sold raffle tickets for things donated to us by local businesses, we had a benefit concert at Woodstock’s and the chancellor and vice chancellor both gave us money,” Juslin said.
The troupe held auditions in late November to select its cast, some of whom are only peripherally involved in the group and domestic violence prevention.
“I originally tried out for ‘The Vagina Monologues’ last year because I’m a theater major and I knew it was a great show,” Co-director and sophomore theater major Jessie Fairbanks said. “When Mimmi and I got talking about its greater cause, I knew I had to get more involved.”
“The Vagina Monologues” was first performed off Broadway in 1996; it was written and is still performed by Eve Ensler, who will be doing a performance at UCSB later this year. The monologues are Ensler’s attempt to express the humor, power, pain, wisdom, outrage, mystery and excitement of female sexuality. Her monologues are based on over 200 interviews she conducted with a diverse group of women in several different countries.
“I decided to talk to women about their vaginas, to do vagina interviews, which became vagina monologues,” Eve Ensler wrote on the official “Vagina Monologues” webpage. “At first, women were reluctant to talk. They were a little shy, but once they got going, you couldn’t stop them.”
“The Vagina Monologues” is performed in about 40 different countries in a worldwide effort to address the issue of violence against girls and women and raise money to aid in prevention campaigns. The money the troupe makes from its shows each year is donated to local organizations that aid victims of domestic violence. The group also works with Take Back the Night and is writing its own monologue about a world without domestic violence, which will also be performed to raise money for victims of domestic violence and education programs.
“The central purpose of [WETT] is V-Day and trying to stop violence against women,” Juslin said.
In 1998, Ensler created V-Day in an effort to end violence against women. V-Day is a day of domestic violence awareness and the name of a nonprofit organization she created to fund grassroots groups working to stop violence against women and girls. “The Vagina Monologues” is the main attraction in V-Day benefit performances around the world.
The troupe has come a long way since its first performance in 2000 that only ran one night and had a comparatively small cast. Juslin said she was surprised by the troupe’s success that year.
“The first show was free because we didn’t think more than 50 or 60 people would show up, but people were in a line around the corner and all the way to [San Rafael residence hall],” she said. “Our roommates were knocking at the back door because they couldn’t get in and people were pounding on the doors. The fire marshal even showed up.”
The show was so popular that the next year they were able to charge for tickets and booked the I.V. Theater for three nights, all of which sold out.
“The second year we did three and said, ‘let’s get the word out, literally and figuratively, about vaginas,'” Juslin said. “That’s why we do it – to get people talking about issues that people don’t openly talk about.”