While most of the people who volunteer to coordinate performances of The Vagina Monologues at universities across the U.S. as part of the V-Day College Iniative are college-age women, there are also some men, some professors, some campus theater directors. Some are feminists and some are just regular folks with no previously embraced causes. For various reasons, all see the merit of bringing V-Day to their communities. And despite the fact that all participating schools mount performances of the same piece - The Vagina Monologues - each event is unique. Some are intimate staged readings. Others are extravagant theatrical and social happenings. There are "Vagina Dialogues" following performances. There are fund-raisers and parties. There is music and art and dance.
Directing the V-Day College Initiative has been much more demanding and rewarding than I ever expected it to be. For two years, I have received twenty-five to seventy-five e-mails a day regarding the Initiative. I have responded to all of them. I have never given myself more fully to any project in my life. There have been days when I would be in my twelfth exhausting hour at the computer and I would ask myself again, "Why V-Day?" and then I'd get a letter from one of the Initiative participants and, again, the answer was clear.
Some of these letters follow, but there are hundreds more like them from people all over the world of all backgrounds and ethnicities who have found, through The Vagina Monologues and V-Day, new ways of thinking and talking about their concerns, discovering their own potential, helping others, healing themselves. I am certain, when you read these testimonials and letters, that you'll know "Why V-Day?" too.
by Karen Obel, Director, V-Day College Initiative
I feel (who doesn't?) that V-Day is a very important cause, and I think it's a good strategy as well. It gets people who ordinarily wouldn't even think about women's issues to come to the play and most of them leave with a new understanding and a lot more respect for the experiences of women in our society. It's also empowering for the people involved, both to have the experience of using their voice to say (to 400+ people) something so meaningful and powerful, and to take active steps to make the world better, safer, and more respectful for women.
--Brian, University of Oklahoma
[To her fellow College Initiative participants]
I want you to not worry We did this last year and are doing it again, with 8 directors, a 150-person team and 10 other V-Day-related activities (including a concert, an art show, a vulva puppet-making workshop, a zine, a lecture series and more). It is SOOO insane and hard to manage. We won't have tryouts until November 30. We don't have funding. So, while we may LOOK organized, things are ALWAYS insane. Every group does it by its own rules. Don't sweat it if your approach is different. There are pluses and minuses to each. Find what woTks for you. There is no ONE WAY to do this. Don't ,tress, just enjoy it-it will work out. (GRIN) good luck!
--Danah, Brown University
[To her fellow College Initiative participants]
We had auditions before Thanksgiving break and some 40 women tried out, which was spectacular. We ended up casting nine and were fairly successful in reaching out to a diverse group of women as far as ethnicity, race, sexuality, age, whatever. Rehearsals have already begun and I'm so excited. As far as sponsors-all of our money is coming from on-campus groups. We are lucky enough to have an on-campus arts grant that provides easy-to-get funding for plays/concerts/etc. but I am in the process of finding funding for the other more
Political projects we are doing. For that money I have approached our Women's Studies Department and am planning to approach American Studies, Sociology, African-American Studies (one of our speakers is talking about poor minority women), and any other academic department that might be considered relevant. I am also presenting a proposed budget to our on-campus community service umbrella, which will provide a couple hundred dollars for one-time projects. If you are at a university, pull from the grad schools-I am planning to approach the feminist law journal at the law school for money and for other types of support and will be checking to see if the other grad schools here have women's groups with available funds. And, if you have a fairly liberal college, try the administration-we are approaching the Dean of Students who has a discretionary fund (although that's a little bit of a stretch). For those of you with less on-campus funding sources, if you are involving non-student communities, see if you can get money from a local community loan fund or the education department of your local/state Planned Parenthood. Even if they can't give you money, they may be able to refer you to someone who can. Hope that helps!
--Anika, Yale University
I would just like to say that bringing the Vagina Monologues and the V-Day celebration to Lincoln, Nebraska, is a HUGE deal. Lincoln is an ultra-conservative town that when viewed from the outside would appear to care nothing about "women's issues." Nebraska is famous for its "Husker Mania" where during college football season most people go to "church" twice a week, once on Saturday afternoon, and once on the usual Sunday morning. This is a state where a retired football coach/demigod is running for the U.S. Senate position, and has a pretty darned good chance at "inning. This is a state where violence against women is normalized. Just a few short years ago, a certain favorite football star was given a slap on the wrist and sent back out on the field after missing only a few games, for beating up his estranged girlfriend. Coincidentally, I believe the Huskers brought home the national title that year.
In spite of the apathetic position of our notorious athletic department, there are many passionate individuals in this community who are dedicated to stopping the violence. I am overwhelmed by the overall positive response that I have gotten for bringing this show to Lincoln. It will truly open some eyes, minds, and hearts!
--Keri, University of Nebraska, Lincoln
In this environment, The Vagina Monologues was not initially well received. Now, support has come forth from various departments on campus with donations. I have booked one performance at a 450-person venue. Now I am not so sure that 450 seats will be enough.
--David, Oregon State University
I'm trying to work in the community. I've contacted several shelters and programs, and they're very interested. They ask me, OK, what do you want us to do? This is where I choke up.
--Laura, University of Puget Sound
I just wanted to thank you once again for giving Colorado State University permission to do The Vagina Monologues last November. Our show was a huge success and "vagina" is still the hottest buzzword on our campus. We completely sold out our run in an 80seat theatre, and had to add two shows and break fire code (Shhh!) by squeezing in 20 extra seats each night. We cleared over $ 1,000 for the Crossroads Safehouse in Fort Collins. Because we were able to direct the show earlier, I am also able to revive it for Valentine's Day. This time, we are doing two shows that night in a 650-seat theatre and publicity has been donated by organizations all over our neo-conservative little town. This show has done so much for all of us, and I just wanted you to know that by stretching the rules for us, our message reached hundreds of people.
--Danielle, Colorado State University
Hello, everyone! I just wanted to wish all of you good luck. If you all have an ounce of the support that V-Day received here at Colorado College, your shows will be HUGE!!! We ended up extending the show to Sunday night. We filled the entire house for the third time (over 200 seats).
A Vagina Story: Saturday night, Megan's mother, grandmother and sisters came to the show. The grandmother is 80 years old. After the show they all went out to dinner. During their meal Megan's grandmother leans over to Megan and says, "Honey, next time I get together with my lady friends, we are going to talk about our vaginas. And if they say WHAT are you talking about? I'm going to say CUNT, CUNT!"
So many stories, so many good memories. We have an enormous, exciting, beautiful and challenging future ahead of us. Good luck to all of you and HAPPY V-DAY!
--Jennifer, Colorado College