PSR hosts the Vagina Monologues

A spirited student production of Eve Ensler’s play, The Vagina Monologues, was held February 12, 2008, in a packed PSR chapel. Ending violence against women through education, storytelling, and performance is the goal of the Monologues, as is raising money for specific projects. PSR’s production — only the second at a seminary nationwide — raised more than $3,200 for San Francisco SafeHouse, a safe place for homeless women leaving prostitution.

Two of the students who took part in the Monologues give their impressions here.

Patricia Wood: “I had not been in a play since elementary school, and I had never seen Vagina Monologues, though I had heard it was quite bold for its time when it first came out [in 1998]. But when I heard the casting call, I knew I wanted to try out. The same desire to witness against war and violence that propelled me to organize a monthly 'Women in Black' vigil from my mountain community in 2003 drove me to the tryouts. Though I may seem fairly average — Anglo, middle class — I have tried to do bold things all my life when they involve witness, justice, peace, or women’s liberation.

“I was taken aback when my role in the play involved representing a male-to-female transgender woman. What could I know about the struggles and life of this woman? V-Week Director Kelly Williams encouraged us to see several recent films, and she arranged for our five-person monologue team to meet with a woman living into this transition. This was very helpful.

“Although I cannot know what it would have been like to be struggling in the wrong-sexed body, name, and expectations, I did know what it was like to be alienated from my own body — childhood sexual abuse does that to its victims. Some of the emotions encased in the words of my character were wrenched from the body of that abused child. I do not pretend to know the pain of the daily, public fear, rejection, and torment of transgender women; but I can and did use my own pain to provide a small witness for them.

“This Vagina Monologues experience has already had significant effects upon me personally and, I hope, upon my ministry, now and in the future. I feel some healing of my wounded self after expressing some of my own pain in body as well as in words. Just writing this makes me cry, imagining myself whole, or at least whole enough to offer witness to the power of the Spirit to heal deep and powerful pain.”

Abigail King Kaiser: “It was a blessing to be a part of putting a week of events together, creating community through the arts at PSR and our fellow GTU schools as well as raising awareness for critical issues of our world. It allowed us to explore, as a community, the pastoral response to violence against women and our responsibility to act. We hoped to inspire broadened appreciation for the joy and tribulation of being a woman in today’s world, as well as explore how the faith community can utilize and blend the arts and liturgy.

“At first, it seemed to me that it was no big deal that we were producing The Vagina Monologues at PSR. I have seen it before; when I was as an undergraduate, it was performed every year. I though that it would be cool to be part of a global movement to stop violence against women, but nothing about our performance at PSR would be special.

“Was I ever wrong!

“As we were rehearsing for our Valentine’s Day performance, it finally dawned on me, sitting in the chapel, with a giant stained glass portrait of Jesus over my head — where I first met the PSR community, where I practiced preaching, where I worship with my professors, even where I have been transformed by worship — that in this place, in this house of God, it was significant to perform this piece.

“There were women screaming ‘cunt’ from the pulpit, women who may preach and not be heard in some churches (or not be allowed to preach at all) simply because they have a vagina. There were women discovering a new artistic part of themselves that God created them to enjoy — right up there on the altar. There were women standing under the cross, telling the story of women in flesh, just as Jesus told the story of God in the flesh.

“If ever I am in ministry and I find myself feeling lonely, quiet, or small because I am a woman, I will stand taller remembering that moment in the PSR chapel when I witnessed more than two dozen women strongly being who God made them to be, telling the story of God's children in a new and exciting way.”