We were completely taken by surprise at the demand for tickets. We had to shut down online sales by Wednesday, for fear of double bookings, and were apologetically telling people we would be selling standing room long before the end of the week. (Our apologies to everyone who turned away in discouragement! Next time we’ll plan more performances.)
As it turned out, we were able to squeeze in everyone who turned out for the packed-house performance, and what a performance it was! Thanks go to the talented cast of students and faculty, and to our incomparable director Christine Coy-Fohr, who along with the talents of art director aaron guldenschuh, lighting director Daniel Stillwell, and sound director Sonja Williams created a visually rich backdrop for the varied tones and voices that narrated Ensler’s sampling of women’s experiences around sexuality, embodiment, relationship, and wonder, as well as experiences of violence.
Over the course of the next few days or so, we hope to sort out some of the highlights and insights of the week. For now, however, this first observation: that the narratives of women’s experiences around sexuality, embodiment, relationship, and wonder constitute a context for the narratives of experiences of violence.
As we know from exegesis class, context matters. Without it, the pericope floats, excised, in an abstract space of intellectual consideration, apart from the body of the text in which its fuller meaning becomes apparent.
People often consider “violence against women” in this decontextualized and recontextualized way — as something that shows up on a list (e.g., of “women’s issues” or “contemporary problems”) of things to think about or donate money to, as something “we’re against, obviously,” as something with its own awareness day and ribbon color and “focus on” Sunday. The sitz im leben of violence against women is not (or not only) the shelter, the flourescent agency lobby, the living room, the counseling session in the pastor’s study. It’s got to include women’s lives and experience, women’s embodied possibilities for pleasure, creative achievement, joy and exuberance.
That seems obvious enough. And it’s precisely a dramatization of [some of] those experiences, from women’s perspectives and in women’s words, that The Vagina Monologues presents. We will be reflecting on the new insight that’s given us all into the meaning of “violence against women” for some time, and trying to work out ways to respond to the renewed and even clearer call to end it.
/edited for content 2-18-09/