‘The Vagina Monologues’: A Play of Female Empowerment


Above are some of the participants in “The Vagina Monologues” which runs from April 17-19. (PHOTO BY EMILY TIBERIO/THE OBSERVER)


Since 2003, the message behind Eve Ensler’s “The Vagina Monologues” has continued to garner longstanding support from a variety of groups at Fordham at Lincoln Center. Especially this year, when sexual assault is an increasingly evident issue in colleges and universities, the play’s director, Chris Hennessy, Fordham College at Lincoln Center (FCLC) ’15, and assistant directors, Leigh Honigman, FCLC ’17, and Mali Clinton FCLC ’18, hope to address this concern even more at Fordham. From April 17-19 in Franny’s Space, the student production of “The Vagina Monologues” will play a greater role in signifying female empowerment through the vagina.

Once a student learns about the monologues’ goal and message, it is hard to turn away from the production’s presence. For Hennessy, the idea of this student production is what initially drew him to Fordham.

“I remember I was here on an accepted students day. I was here all by myself, and I picked up a copy of The Observer. The front page story was about ‘The Vagina Monologues’ and how it was banned here. I picked up a copy, and I poured over it on the ride home to Jersey. After I finished it, I made the decision that I had to come to Fordham,” Hennessy said.

For many, the play succeeds in aligning with many of their values and aspiring goals. “I’ve always been interested in theater; I am a theater minor, and I major in psychology. Specifically, I am very interested in women’s issues,” Honigman said. “Seeing this production and the call for it seemed like a natural thing to fit – I knew I wanted to get involved.”

The message on female empowerment is the main reason why students choose to participate in “The Vagina Monologues.”

Hennessy said, “From the play, I noticed that there were people who are passionate about making the world a better place and that I could be a part of that. When I made that decision myself, I figured that when I was a senior, that ‘The Vagina Monologues’ would be allowed and it wouldn’t be a big deal – that’s not necessarily the case.”

In March 2012, Keith Eldredge, dean of students at FCLC, had spoken about “The Vagina Monologues” with The Observer. According to Eldredge, “‘The Vagina Monologues’ is not supported by administrative units of the University, including the departments in the division of Student Affairs.” However, FCLC Counseling Services attends the production to help students cope with the final monologue, saying, “As administrators, we are very concerned about sexual violence and pleased that we were able to collaborate on this initiative.”

Although Office of Student Leadership and Community Development (OSLCD) and the administration disapproved the production, multiple departments at Fordham, such as the women’s studies, the communication and media studies and the English departments, have continued to support “The Vagina Monologues” over the years.

Beginning this year, Fordham Theatre department has gotten on board; they helped this student production find a new practice and performance space. “Before, we were in South Lounge every year; it’s a nice space for certain things, but not for ‘The Vagina Monologues’, the South Lounge has a glass wall, which doesn’t provide the intimate feeling of the production,” Hennessy said. “We are very excited to be in Franny’s Space this year; [the space] is more at a caliber to show a student production.”

Because of the play’s poignant effect on students, both Honigman and Hennessy agree that the entire Fordham community will eventually come to terms with the play one day. “I think that it is difficult to merge religion with certain aspects of culture today,” Honigman said. “On the Jesuits and their ideals – I think they are adapting much more to the idea of ‘The Vagina Monologues.’”

Hennessy said, “Every year, the performances [of “The Vagina Monologues”] sell out; people get transformed by the show. I’ve had people who came up to me after the performance with tears in their eyes, saying, ‘Thank you so much – this is the first time I accepted that I was sexually assaulted as a child. I don’t know how long it would have taken until I’ve seen the show.’ With power experiences like that, it is really hard to say that it won’t change.”

Furthermore, at least eight Catholic colleges and universities will be hosting performances of “The Vagina Monologues” or have student groups putting on the play in 2015, according to an update from the Cardinal Newman Society last February. This year, six out of the eight Catholic higher education institutions are affiliated with the Jesuits. Along with Fordham, “The Vagina Monologues” will be shown at Boston College, DePaul University, Georgetown University, Loyola University Chicago and more.

“I think that says something about the fact that Jesuits are more progressive than the average Catholic. I really appreciate that about Fordham and about Fordham and the student body. Overall, I think we are not just a progressive place but a incredibly loving place. We are capable of expressing that love in different ways, such as supporting women after sexual assault,” Hennessy said.

The unique and powerful message of “The Vagina Monologues” will continue to strike a chord with students at Fordham. “The play is so powerful – there are not a lot of plays right now that exist solely to support women as a community,” Honigman said. “There is an overwhelming support and love in each production, and everyone is there for each other. All this positivity and support is really important – that’s my favorite aspect of the show.”

UPDATE: April 17, 2015 The Editor-in-Chief changed the article to include Mali Clinton FCLC ’18 as an assistant director for the show.