A group of women gathered together in a candlelit restaurant, women who were once simply acquaintances and neighbors a few months ago. They held one another, laughed and cried with one another. The sound of clinking wine glasses filled the room as they congratulated each other on a finished performance and the creation of a close-knit, genuine community. “Tonight, I really watched them blossom,” said Maiya Corral, director of the show.
“I saw so many moments of them claiming the space and claiming their words, showing how much they all want this fight. I watched them trust it and the work we’ve done.” “The Vagina Monologues” returned to Moscow with two sold-out performances Friday and Saturday at the Kenworthy Performing Arts Centre. Hosted by the Women’s Center, the performances raised funds for Alternatives to Violence on the Palouse as part of their V-Day campaign. V-Day is a global campaign that raises awareness and support against gender-based violence through hosting performances of “The Vagina Monologues.”
Makayla Sundquist, a University of Idaho student, said she had never seen “The Vagina Monologues” before Saturday. Sundquist said the performance brought to light many issues and topics involving women that caused her to reconsider her views and perspectives.
“Watching it was empowering, awe-inspiring and eye-opening,” Sundquist said. “Tonight showed me that womanhood is something to be proud of.”
In addition to the original monologues written by author and activist Eve Ensler, this year’s performance included original pieces written by members of the Palouse community.
UI student Madeline Scyphers shared a piece about her experience as a transgender woman. She said she wrote it to be an accurate description of her story and the stories of other transgender women she knows, a piece that defined womanhood as something beyond having a vagina.
Scyphers said she was surprised and encouraged by the amount of support she got from the community during her performance, and she hoped the audience gained a better insight into understanding people who are transgender.
“I want people to know that trans women’s issues are women’s issues,” Scyphers said. “All these issues are connected. We’re all in this together.”
Four local women also wrote and shared their piece about workplace violence and harassment as well.
Hailey Smith, a UI student, talked about her experience of being a woman in the STEM field, where workplace harassment is common. She shared the story of watching a fellow classmate be harassed and demeaned by another classmate based on her gender.
Following her performance, Smith said a student studying in the STEM field came up to her and said she was so glad she wasn’t alone in her experience with workplace harassment.
“I think many people came tonight to feel this power and movement swirling around in the community,” Smith said. “I hope they feel more connected, empowered and vibrant because of it.”
Katie Noble, a UI alumna, shared her story about being in a hostile work environment. While she was comfortable performing Ensler’s pieces, Noble said sharing her story was difficult and made her feel vulnerable. During her performance, Noble said she relied on the love and support of her fellow performers on stage to make it through the words.
“I don’t think I could have done by myself,” Noble said. “Having people standing next to me and sharing their stories with me, it let me know that I’m not alone in this.”
Lindsay Mammone, a member of the monologues cast, stood alongside Noble as she shared her story during the performance. Mammone said not all issues are black and white, and it is important not to judge someone when they ask for help.
“There’s so much story we don’t know about each person and what they’re carrying,” Mammone said. “When someone is sharing their story, it is so important to guide them and lend out a helping hand.”
Kelly Christensen, another performer, said sharing her story never seemed like a big deal to her until Friday night. She said she realized she was minimizing the problem, and that’s the biggest reason why so many workplace violence cases go unreported.
“I want the audience to realize that gender-based violence can be mild sometimes and it starts out small,” Christensen said. “If you let that tiny seed of violence grow, it turns into something massively horrible and can ruin lives. When we encounter violence in any form, we need to stop and confront it.”
Corral said watching the performance and the women she had gotten to know so intimately was an emotional experience. She said having her mother there made the moment even more special.
“The whole time, I thought of my mom and my grandma, and all the moms and grandmas,” Corral said. “I thought of all the women across the world who are still in prisons, and I felt blessed to bring the prison to light.”
But Mammone said the momentum from Saturday’s sold-out performance is far from being finished, especially in light of what was said at the Women’s March on the Palouse.
“I still feel that vibration in the air, it’s still palpable,” Mammone said. “I’m hoping that for Moscow that we recognize that there’s still inequality in our community. There’s still work to be done and there’s still growth to be had.”
Taryn Hadfield can be reached at email@example.com