Much Ado About Something: The Vagina Monologues

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really happened? The Forum has the scoop. Not the gossip that has been circulating the student-sphere for months now. The real story, from both perspectives. Alexa Ramirez, a current senior, proposed her student-run play The Vagina Monologues to the theatre department a couple months ago. Alexa wanted to destigmatize the discomfort surrounding vaginas within our society, tackling the stigmas in the Latin community first. The Vagina Monologues was the perfect medium for her to do so. After watching the student-run production Dream of The Burning Boy by Chris Quazzo and Caroline Chu, Alexa knew she wanted to direct a student-run of her own. However, Alexa “struggled to find a story that really captivated [her]” until she was introduced to The Vagina Monologues by her mother. The Vagina Monologues fulfilled all her hopes for her student-run play: “a story [she] regarded as important,” and “one that might have never before been put on the Latin stage.” In December, Mr. Schneider reached out to Ms. Rodriguez and Ms. Horvath to let them know that the play preview for Ohio would take place that day. Throughout the day, many faculty stopped by Ms. Rodriguez’s office to express their discomfort with the Ohio play preview. The faculty felt like the characters in the play preview were “glorifying alcohol, partying, and promiscuity.” The faculty believed that students may party and drink alcohol in their private lives, so it was “unacceptable” for a school play to glorify such behavior. While the characters face consequences for their risky behavior at the end of the play, the play preview gave too little context for the glorification it displayed. Ms. Rodriguez and Ms. Horvath worked with Mr. Schneider to organize a faculty meeting to discuss the Ohio play. The administration, Mr. Schneider, and other department heads decided to be more cautious about future plays they wanted to show. They focused on ensuring the presence of context for the play previews as well as mindfulness surrounding the community’s potential concerns. So, flashback to a few months ago when Alexa proposed The Vagina Monologues as her chosen student-run. Mr. Schneider decided to reach out to Ms. Rodriguez and Ms. Horvath due to the previous issues surrounding Ohio. Mr. Schneider wanted to run it by them given the mature subject matter. Mr. Schneider–and Alexa–ensured the administration that the “more mature” material would be cut out. However, there were still some sections that felt a bit mature for a K-12 community. Additionally, Ms. Rodriguez wanted to address a common misconception about The Vagina Monologues. Ms. Rodriguez firmly believes that “if the administration didn’t support [The Vagina Monologues], it wouldn’t have happened.” It wasn’t that the administration didn’t support The Vagina Monologues, or Alexa. The main concern for the administration was the response of the entire Latin community. The administration is cognizant that Latin is a JK-12th institution. Therefore, there are potentially some members of the community that may not want their 6, 7, or 11-year-old to be exposed to the mature content. Thus, the key for Ms. Rodriguez and Ms. Horvath was transparency. Transparency with the parents, with the community, and with Alexa. Alexa, who “had never felt more artistically ready” to put on her play, was “initially very sad,” as she had been “waiting [her] whole high school career to be able to do [direct a student-run.” Ms. Rodriguez and other administrative members, in order to be thoughtful about Alexa’s frustrations but also the potential concerns in the community, organized various meetings with different community members, in order to get as many perspectives as possible. Ms. Rodriguez and Ms. Horvath held various meetings, each having a diverse group of faculty, administrative, and staff members such as Mr. Teolis, Ms. Maajidd, Ms. Lawrence, Ms. LC, Ms. Callis, Ms. Gallagher, Mr. Choi, and Mr. Dunn. Ms. Rodriguez and Ms. Horvath admire Alexa’s willingness to work with them in continuing the discussion. But, all the discussions came at a cost: pushing back Alexa’s play schedule. Eventually, the group came to a compromise: they would allow the play, but they were going to have more meetings to discuss which content would remain in the play. Alexa’s strongest pushback came at this point: she didn’t want too much of the play to be chipped away, because many of the most mature parts were very pertinent to the message. “From the beginning,” Ms. Horvath said, “it was all about protecting Alexa…us working together to figure out how to get across the intended message while also protecting her from potential backlash.” With that, Ms. Rodriguez and Ms. Horvath allowed for some mature parts to stay in the play, as they were crucial to de-stigmatizing, de-mystifying, and de-objectifying women. However, it’s just as important to validate the frustrations Alexa felt, even with the cooperation and transparency of the administration. Alexa “thought back to how much seeing a play like this [her] freshman year would have meant to [her.” It was the central reason for why she pushed so hard for this play. Had she seen a play like this as a freshman, “[she] would[‘ve] felt not only welcomed but embraced to be [her] and share [her] stories.” Alexa “just wanted to see it happen,” regardless if it was her directing it. Ms. Rodriguez wanted as many people to come to the play as possible, but also reiterated that “it was Latin parents’ prerogative to decide whether or not they wanted their child seeing the play.” To keep everyone in the community in the loop, Ms. Rodriguez, Ms. Horvath, and Mr. Schneider sent out a push page to the parents. The push page gave a brief overview of all the student-run plays that would be shown, adding a special blurb under the description of The Vagina Monologues:

“The Vagina Monologues” is a series of monologues exploring womanhood and impactful experiences – it works to de-mystify, de-objectify, and de-sexualize women while reclaiming experiences and bringing relevant issues to light in order to talk about them. It is funny, witty, sometimes sad but important. Disclaimer: Recommended for mature audiences only due to explicit language and sexual content.  **Note about this performance: After the performances, counselors will be holding a talk-back to address the issues raised by the play. We received a strong response and desire from students to include this play in the festival, given their personal experiences and what they see in the media happening to women in our society.
After all was said and done, The Vagina Monologues was incredibly successful, garnering support before, during, and after the play. Students wrote letters, emails, and came in to discuss their viewpoint in support of the play, which Ms. Rodriguez and Ms. Horvath accepted with open arms. Additionally, Alexis Miramontes sold The Vagina Monologues patches she had made using skills learned on her Project Week. At the end of the night, Alexis and the cast/crew members raised over $600 for Chicago Women’s Health Center in Uptown. The group continues to raise money for the CWHC, selling The Vagina Monologues sweatshirts with all proceeds going to the CWHC’s Uptown location. While we can now enjoy the success of the play in its aftermath, it’s important to reflect on what the play represents for our community. During the entire process, Mr. Edwards pondered over a question that he believes will continue to be pertinent in all situations in the Latin community: “How do we support kids who want to do something new and on their own when those things can be received in a variety of ways… how can we support them but also support the broader community?” Mr. Edwards believes that the administration will continue to struggle with this question at Latin, as our community continues to progress, and students feel more comfortable vocalizing what they believe in.]]>