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Vagina Monologues’ canceled this year

Madeline Buckley | Tuesday, April 7, 2009

For the first time in eight years, Notre Dame students will not perform “The Vagina Monologues” at an on- or off-campus location.

Junior Miriam Olsen, a producer of last year’s show, said the group of students in charge of organizing the production of “The Vagina Monologues” this year decided not to continue the show.

“We were not forbidden by the University to do the Monologues and we didn’t give up fighting,” she said.

Instead, Olsen said she, along with several other students, declined to produce the show because they believed the controversy on campus that follows the show is ultimately counterproductive to the show’s purpose.

“What happened was that I, and some other people who have been involved in the past, feel like the “Monologues” are an amazing piece that talks about women’s sexuality that can be very productive for Notre Dame students,” she said. “But unfortunately, what happens when the “Monologues” are put on, is they turn into more of a scandal than an action piece.”

“The Vagina Monologues” were first performed at Notre Dame in February 2002 as part of a campaign to raise awareness about violence against women, according to a Feb. 27, 2002 Observer report.

After the first showing in 2002, the “Monologues” became an annual fixture at Notre Dame until 2007, when student organizers could not find an academic department at the University to sponsor the performance, The Observer reported.

The first showing of the Monologues off-campus was then performed at South Bend’s First Unitarian Church on Feb. 28, 2007.

Last year, the Vagina Monologues returned to campus, sponsored by the sociology, anthropology and political science departments, and the production sparked debates about the tension between Notre Dame’s Catholic identity and the academic freedom expected at a university.

University President Fr. John Jenkins allowed the production to be shown on campus in 2008, as long as an academic panel discussion followed each performance – a decision that was criticized by Fort Wayne-South Bend Bishop John D’Arcy and several other Catholic leaders and organizations.

Junior Kathleen Hession, who was slated to direct the show this year, said she is disappointed the “Monologues” will not occur this year.

“The show itself is just a show,” she said. “But when it comes down to it, it’s the conversation and awareness it inspired.”

Junior Will Haley, who was stage manager for the “Monologues” for part of the production last year, said the controversy surrounding the show slowed down the process.

Because of obstacles in securing a venue on campus to hold the “Monologues,” Haley said the show had to be performed later in the year than was originally planned.

He said he believes the controversy that surrounds the “Monologues” every year entices students to attend and participate in the show. Letting the controversy rest for a year could benefit the show.

“If the word vagina wasn’t in the title, I don’t think anyone would take notice of it,” he said. “It’s the fact that it’s not allowed to happen that pushes people to strive to put it on.”

Junior Angelica Hernandez, an actress in last year’s show, said the controversy inspired curiosity, which helped raise the show’s attendance.

“Our last two nights were sold out – technically oversold with people sitting in the aisles,” Hernandez said. “I’m pretty sure people were curious, and wanted to know what it was all about. I’m sure that helped our cause – whether the people liked it or not.”

As for the future of the “Monologues,” Olsen said she hopes they will be produced again on campus.

“I hope that they happen again and I hope that when they happen again they happen under better circumstances,” she said.