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Students staging 'The Vagina Monologues'

The cast, directors and producers engage in a workshop activity during early rehearsals for "The Vagina Monologues."
The cast, directors and producers engage in a workshop activity during early rehearsals for "The Vagina Monologues."
Photo / Ruth Perlmutter

Each year since 1998, author Eve Ensler has donated the rights to produce her 1996 Obie Award-winning play "The Vagina Monologues" as part of a V-Day Campaign, a worldwide movement to stop violence against women. This year, for the first time, MIT joins the V-Day College Campaign as one of a total of 550 student productions. Performances will be Feb. 20-22 at 8 p.m. in Kresge Little Theater.

Originally performed by Ensler as a one-woman monologue on female sexuality, "The Vagina Monologues" is based on her interviews with a diverse group of women, from a Long Island antique dealer to a Bosnian refugee. Still playing to sold-out crowds at New York's Westside Theatre with a revolving cast of three, the play has been called "a bona fide phenomenon" (The New York Times), "alternately funny, poetic and provocative" (Entertainment Weekly) and "a work of art and a piece of cultural history" (Variety).

Sixty-four women auditioned for the MIT production--"a lot more than we expected," said coordinator and co-producer Ruth Perlmutter, a sophomore in brain and cognitive sciences. "They were all passionate and eager."

The cast was whittled down to 25 women. Interestingly, three of the four student directors are male. "We wanted directors who cared about the issues," said Perlmutter, noting that the gender of the directors was not an issue.

Director Usman Akeju noted that being male doesn't interfere with his appreciation of the material. "Hearing the countless deep and personal stories at the workshops made me see firsthand why 'The Vagina Monologues' had to be written and why they must be brought to as many people as possible," said the sophomore in electrical engineering and computer science.

Ensler conceived the V-Day movement--which takes place on or around Valentine's Day--when she found that every time she performed "The Vagina Monologues," women would tell her their personal experiences of violence. The MIT theatrical team has arranged for two staff members from MIT Medical to be on hand at each performance for audience members who have a similar need to talk.

Tickets are $10, or $8 with an MIT ID. All money raised is donated directly to organizations that work to end rape, battery, female genital mutilation and sexual slavery. Proceeds from MIT's show will go to the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA) and three local charities. For more information, call x5-8927, e-mail To find out more about V-Day click here .

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on February 13, 2002.

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