The Vagina Monologues at OSU: Cast Bios

Many people have misconceptions of the people who participate in The Vagina Monologues. Referencing the first blog I did this semester for the O’Colly, Feminism at OSU, the women AND men who actively work to address women’s issues on a daily basis are not these scary, man-hating, bra-burning (although I think not wearing a bra would be pretty amazing…damn dress codes!) figures of conservative folklore and myth.

I want to introduce you to a few of the women who are participating in The Vagina Monologues at OSU this weekend, to show you we’re just like everyone else! We’re just not afraid to talk about women’s issues in front of a large crowd of people. Also, thank you to the men who are helping out off-stage this year!

image1Anna Facci, director

Lecturer at OSU, M.A. in Sociology

Facci is currently a lecturer with the sociology department at OSU. She teaches sections of SOC 1113, Introduction to Sociology. She also continues the research work she started during her thesis involving indigenous women’s involvement in an online social movement called Idle No More, specifically addresses issues of how gender ideas are challenged or reinforced through the interactive narratives of Facebook posts.

Were you involved in any organizations in high school or college before now that addressed women’s issues?

I always jokingly say I’m an accidental feminist. I was raised by Catholic parents, but my mom always was teaching me these kinds of feminist ideas that challenged the way we would look at gender. I wasn’t allowed to own Barbies until I was 8, because she didn’t want me to have an unrealistic sense of women’s bodies, but she never identified to me as a feminist while I was growing up. By the time I was in high school, I was pretty well into activism groups focusing on LGBTQ issues because I felt called to do that. I’ve always been compelled to help the marginalized portions of society. Later, when I came out as queer, it was important to me because that was part of my identity. Coming in to college, I joined what is now Oklahoma State Queers & Allies (OSQ&A) and through that met some women who were in the National Organization for Women (NOW). That’s when I first auditioned for The Vagina Monologues. It’s been a wild ride, but now I know student activism is what I want to do. I think it’s so important, especially in college, to figure out what you’re passionate about and find the group that helps you be active about it. For me, it was activism that centered on my gender and sexuality.

What are the experiences you’ve had being involved in The Vagina Monologues as both cast and director?

Basically, I loved being a cast member, because it was a great outlet to be able to perform in something that wasn’t a full-theatre production. As a cast member, everyone has a “oh if I was in charge” kind of moment. The next year I was the vice-president of NOW and I was asked if I would be interested in directing and I immediately said yes. Before I took over as director, the rehearsals were what you’d expect of a theatre rehearsal, with vocal warmups and everyone taking turns practicing. For me, the show is more about building a community of women and more about the cast members than it is about the performance. A lot of that comes from how I feel about the message of the show in general. The show opens by addressing how vaginas need context…they need a community. My goal became to build a space and that community for women who, especially on a conservative campus, lack that space they can feel comfortable to talk about their experiences with other women.

Do your expectations stay fairly similar each year you’re involved with The Vagina Monologues? Or do you find them changing each year?

They change a little bit with each cast. I had one cast who bonded immediately, and it was like this group of girls had never been apart before. The goal then became not to help them bond but how to push themselves further in their activism and involvement and how they felt about women’s issues. I think every year I go into it with the same initial goal and then adapt it to the cast. This year we have a lot of big personalities, which personality is a large factor that influences how the productions will go. It’s been a really fun process to navigate that space and make sure everyone has their voice heard.

For people who don’t think The Vagina Monologues apply to them or think it’s something that needs to be talked about, what would you say to them about why the play is important?

The number one thing about this show is that more than any other book or play or essay, other than maybe “Feminism is for Everybody” by Bell Hooks, this play for me helps to communicate so well some of the unseen issues women face. For the monologue, “I Was There in the Room” which deals with childbirth, Eve Ensler mentions someone who once said to her that he didn’t see the connection between a play about vaginas and birth…there are so many things we don’t think about when we talk about women’s issues. This play shows the spectrum, especially in terms of inclusiveness, for example, a monologue about the issues of trans* women. The issues of being a woman aren’t just that we would like reproductive rights or about abortion. It’s about feeling safe and loved and being happy and fulfilled. I encourage people to see this show if they want to know themselves and their partners, sisters, and friends. Women are people, too. This gives a comprehensive experience of what a lot of the hardest parts of being a woman are.

Rebecca Ortiz, Chair of the Women’s Programming Advisory Council, cast member, “Introduction” & “My Revolution Begins in the Body”

Junior, Psychology

Prior to The Vagina Monologues, were you involved in any organizations in high school or college before now that addressed women’s issues?

I was on the executive team of OSQ&A, and I was with them when we underwent the name change to be more inclusive as an organization. While they addressed LGBTQ issues, they also represented women’s issues because they are an underrepresented issue at OSU. When I was approached to be in WPAC, I was super excited simply for the fact that I was going to be able to move forward with my interests with other women who were interested in the movement.

When you learned that WPAC was going to host The Vagina Monologues at OSU, was it something you had to think about before you decided to do it? Or was it something that immediately struck a chord with you?

I was ready to talk about vaginas. There was no question about it.

What do your friends or family think now that they know you’re participating?

My friends will be there to support me, however, my conservative Mexican family has NO idea that I will be in The Vagina Monologues. When your family comes from a different country, the idea of feminism and being open and honest and raw about your body is not something typical of the Mexican culture and households at all. I am doing this for my own self though.

What are you expecting for yourself by participating in The Vagina Monologues?

I’m really excited to be onstage because I’ve never done anything like this before. I hoped that I would come away from this more empowered and gain confidence.

What do you hope the people who are attending are able to take away from the play?

My hope is that people will understand why we’re doing this. That women will feel more empowered about themselves. I would like more of a sisterhood with the women on campus. So far, it’s nice to meet other women who are interested in women’s issues and speaking about them openly.

For people who don’t think The Vagina Monologues apply to them or think it’s something that needs to be talked about, what would you say to them about why the play is important?

V-Day is a global movement to end violence against women and girls. Its a very real issue that not just women in far off places experience, but women in Stillwater also experience daily. It’s extremely important to have these types of programs and events to bring awareness to things that are happening right here in our front yard.

SmolaJulia Smola, cast member,

Sophomore, Political Science with a minor in Gender and Women’s Studies

Prior to The Vagina Monologues, were you involved in any organizations in high school or college before now that addressed women’s issues?

Not in high school, but I am in the American Association for University Women, which is the only women’s-oriented club I’m in right now.

When you learned about The Vagina Monologues at OSU, was it something you had to think about before you decided to do it? Or when you saw WPAC was auditioning for cast members, was it something that immediately struck a chord with you?

I read the book a couple of years ago. I found it in an old bookstore and thought, hey, this could be cool. I read through it and it rocked! I did more research on it and it helped with my feminist awakening. When I saw the A-frames up on campus, I thought, why not and I made the decision on my own to audition. I didn’t really talk about it with my friends at first.

What do your friends or family think now that they know you’re participating?

They all know me as the capital ‘F’ feminist friend, and they’re all really excited about it. A big group of them are coming and I’m in a sorority and my house mom is coming. I’ve been explaining my monologue to practice and people ask me about it because it has ‘Vagina’ on it.

What are you expecting from participating in an actual production versus what you had thought when you had just previously read the play?

I think it’s a lot more community and less of a theatrical production. It’s about getting to know other people and discuss real-life vagina monologues and not just the ones you read from a script.

What are you hoping the people who are attending are able to take away from the play?

Ultimately a goal would be for women and other people to not be afraid of the word ‘vagina’ and for women to realize they are the owners of their own bodies. They’re allowed to express whatever they want about it.

For people who don’t think The Vagina Monologues apply to them or think it’s something that needs to be talked about, what would you say to them about why the play is important?

I think a lot of people feel threatened by it. A lot of my guy friends crack jokes about going to their penis diaries rehearsals. It really is an important issue for women to feel like they can talk about their own bodies and have ownership about them. I want everyone to come see it.

jamieJamie Hadwin, Treasurer of WPAC, cast member, “Introduction”

Senior, Strategic Communications

Prior to The Vagina Monologues, were you involved in any organizations in high school or college before now that addressed women’s issues?

It wasn’t until I returned to college in 2013 that I began to get involved with women’s issues through an organization called the Women’s Resource Center at OSU, which is now WPAC. I wish I had sooner though. I feel like I’ve always held feminist ideas, but I never was around a group of people I could talk about those ideas around. Which is a shame, because I’ve never felt more confident about myself than I do now.

When you learned about The Vagina Monologues at OSU, was it something you had to think about before you decided to do it? Or when you saw WPAC was auditioning for cast members, was it something that immediately struck a chord with you?

Because of my involvement with WPAC, there was no question I was going to be involved with the productions. I did, however, want to extend the opportunity to read a monologue to any person who auditioned before I chose one. Three WPAC members chose to do the ‘Introduction’ because we thought it would be a good way to kick off the play and to break the ice for the other people performing. Although, I’d love to perform another monologue, I’m really glad we have such a great cast that took on all the monologues. Maybe next year, I’ll do more!

What do your friends or family think now that they know you’re participating?

Well, I often digress to conversations about gender and sexuality issues while we’re hanging out or enjoying some drinks during our free time. I’m ‘that’ feminist friend! Some of them still feel uncomfortable talking to me about it though. I think it’s just weird for some people to be open about these issues that affect people on a daily basis. That’s why I talk about those issues though. They support me though, regardless. I’m expecting to see a lot of friends in the audience. My family supports me with this and any decision I make for myself, but they won’t be able to attend.

What are you expecting for yourself by participating in The Vagina Monologues?

I have to give it to Anna, our director. She has been really great about making this production about building a community and not just performing a play. It’s been great to be around a group of people that I can talk freely to about issues that we all want to talk about. I look forward to carrying that level of honesty into the production and beyond.

What do you hope the people who are attending are able to take away from the play?

I want people to realize that it’s OK to talk about these issues in a healthy way. Gender and sexuality issues are nothing to be ashamed about! We live in a society that tries to push topics under the rug for our own selfish reasons. A good example is the infamous ‘Birds and the Bees’ talk…parents hope to avoid the talk because it makes the parents uncomfortable, not the children. The children are the ones asking about it!

For people who don’t think The Vagina Monologues apply to them or think it’s something that needs to be talked about, what would you say to them about why the play is important?

Although The Vagina Monologues primarily focuses on the experiences of being a woman and/or having a vagina, being able to have an open conversation about this issue will more likely lead to having an open conversation about other important issues. Many women are ashamed to even hear the word ‘vagina’ although they all have one! By being ashamed of their vaginas, they’re in essence ashamed of themselves. That really sucks to hear! For men, attending the play or becoming involved in women’s issues helps you to (1) help your female friends, girlfriends, wives, colleagues, etc. have a better self-image and (2) understanding women’s issues allows you to better understand men’s issues as well, because ultimately we’re talking about GENDER ISSUES here. It takes women AND men to work on these issues. It’s not a one-way street.

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