By Matthew Craig
On Friday, Feb. 17, USM’s Student Performing Artists (SPA) group performed Eve Ensler’s The Vagina Monologues. The play, which in 1997 won an Obie award for playwriting, is performed each year in an effort to the V-DAY and One Billion Rising movements. Director Brittany Burke, who also acted in another production of the play during her freshman year at USM, also organized a raffle and sale of some various items, some donated and some made by her. All of the proceeds from admission and raffle tickets, as well as items sold, were donated to Sexual Assault Response Services of Southern Maine (SARSSM). The total amount donated came to over $400.
Eve Ensler is principally a writer of political theatre, and The Vagina Monologues is her most popular work to date. Early in life, Ensler had some difficult experiences that influenced much of what she has done in her writing career. In addition to her playwriting, she has written a memoir, worked on films and served as a feminist media consultant.
Burke feels very strongly about the material and the movement that The Vagina Monologues represents each February, and thus took on the role of directing despite the fact that she “had never done any marketing, fundraising or directing before.” The project was completed in a very short amount of time, and “because of all the snow days [they] had, [they] were only able to run through the show one time before performing it.” Burke certainly had her hands full for her first time directing, with a cast of 13 to manage. Ultimately, like so many things born under pressure, those involved felt passionate about their product and turnout. Burke hopes that “by performing The Vagina Monologues, we were able to create awareness and even change.”
The Vagina Monologues has, since its release, become a bastion of women’s rights and empowerment, as well as a very important force for spreading sexual assault awareness. VDAY, a global activist and awareness group for violence against women, sponsors Ensler’s play each year. In the month of February, it is free to put on a production of the work. Also involved with this program is another organization known as One Billion Rising. This organization seeks justice for violence against women, and holds the statistic that one in three women will be beaten or raped in her lifetime.
Founded in 1973, SARSSM was originally called the Rape Crisis Center and was organized by a small group of women. By 1978, the center had been incorporated and occupied a small office. Only a year later, the organization provided a 24-hour hotline for victims of rape and sexual assault. Today, SARSSM still provides people with these invaluable services, and is one of nine organizations that comprise the Maine Coalition Against Sexual Assault.