After Chester College’s first performance of the ever popular Vagina Monologues on Feb. 15, SO Good's Kelsey McCarthy was lucky to catch up with a few of the performers--students Dawn Coutu, Rachel Lieberman, Tiffany Etter, and Shannon Malloy, and faculty members Nanette Thrush and Monica O'Brien--to get their take on the show and what it speaks to so many about.
SO Good: Put yourself two years in the past. Could you still see yourself being a part of this performance?
Dawn Coutu: I think I was still rather shy and uncomfortable with myself two years ago. I avoided saying the word "vagina." Since Friday's performance, I feel comfortable saying it more than I ever have.
Rachel Lieberman: I think two years ago I could have seen myself doing this performance, but certainly a little more hesitant given the fact that I was in high school. For some reason the two environments are very, very different from each other.
Tiffany Etter: Absolutely not. It's not the content that would have prevented me, but stage fright. I have no problem voicing my opinion in discussions, but put the focus on me directly while standing and reading in front of a crowd and I have mild panic attacks.
Nanette Thrush: Yes, I would have been a part of this performance two years ago.
Monica O’Brien: I definitely would've done this two years ago. I would've been open to doing it at any time in my life if I felt camaraderie with the people doing it.
Shannon Malloy: Oh definitely. I've always been pretty comfortable with myself, and in high school I read one of the Vagina Monologues for my drama class. I don't think I would have done the monologue I did, but two years ago I would have done it.
SO Good: How important do you think positive sexual education is in society today? (Meaning seeing sex in a positive, natural light.)
Coutu: I think it is important to teach healthy acceptance of sex as a natural desire. I think this should be taught as well as accepting our bodies for each variously voluptuous shape.
Lieberman: To me, it's important to make sure students know the risks that can be associated with sex, but I don't believe in painting sex itself in a bad light. Safe sex should be the focus of sex education.
Etter: I think it's very important. Our priorities as a society seem to be off kilter. We have no problem letting children play with guns or watch violent movies, but let something sexual like a breast flash and we freak out. Girls, especially, should be taught that they're bodies are beautiful and sacred, and they can choose what they wish to do with their body.
Thrush: I think sex education overall is crucial--as it is, teens are taught to be ashamed of sex and sexuality, which only leads to problems.
O’Brien: I think positive sexual education is one of the most important things we can offer young people, but I think it needs to be in conjunction with teaching critical thinking and cultural studies. It's great for a woman to be taught to love her clitoris, but that only goes so far if she subscribes to patriarchal definitions of womanhood.
Malloy: For hundreds of years, humans have made sex out to be this horrible thing, even though it is completely necessary. By doing things like the Vagina Monologues, we show the new generations coming out that these are the things our bodies do, and how they are, and make sure in the process to show that there is nothing wrong with sex. This is especially important at a female perspective because women have only been shown to be sexual in the last hundred years or so. Without things like the Vagina Monologues, or the Penis Monologues (obviously a male perspective), religion and ancient morals will always say sex is bad.
SO Good: What was the hardest part of your performance? Why?
Coutu: Accentuating the proper words for "The Flood" was difficult because it made the difference between the audience catching on to my monologue's humor and listening to an old lady gab in monotone about her first boyfriend.
Lieberman: At first, it was difficult to get into the idea of using certain language and conveying certain ideas with my monologue. I'd never done anything like this before, so it was odd, but after awhile I really got into it.
Etter: Just getting over the nerves before the actual performance. Once I realized that everyone is here for a great cause and it's not the end of the world if I flub a line.
Thrush: The most difficult part of my performance was trying to decide what "emotion" to give the piece. The words alone could have been angry, funny, or melodramatic.
O’Brien: The hardest part of the performance was acting. I don't act. I'm just not good at it and it makes me uncomfortable. So it's good that I had a part that could be delivered more like a lecture!
Malloy: Moaning. It was hard to get up there and do something so personal, being a moaner myself. It took a lot of opening up to do most of them. Having Jenna, Cassandra and Vanessa up there with me made me feel so much better, and realize that it isn't about just me, it is about everyone.
SO Good: Some of you are currently professors at the college. Did this fact make it easier or harder to perform in front of students? Why or why not?
Thrush: Performing the piece in front of the students wasn't difficult for me, but I wonder if it was for them.
O’Brien: The fact that I'm a professor here made me want to participate. However, I'm glad I didn't have a part that required me to act in a sexy manner or moan--these days I don't think I would do those things for anyone except my husband!