Last night, Grand Rapids community members crowded into an apartment-turned-venue off South Division Avenue to see “The Vagina Monologues.”
Walking into the Fuse Box, out of the bristling, cold winter air, guests were welcomed by smiling faces and beverages in a fridge. Vagina shaped treats and pins were sold to attendees, who quickly fill up the space. The stringed lights near the stage and the music in the background created an ambience of comfort.
Everyone smiled at each other, hugged instead of shaking hands, and no one felt like a complete stranger. Some discuss back to other performances of “The Vagina Monologues” they had seen, or clips they saw on YouTube. But most of the people seemed to be attending the show for the first time.
“I have known about this for decades,” said performer Claire Mahave, 46. “Probably shortly after (I got out of) college is when it became a phenomenon. I’ve wanted to do it ever since I heard about it and I’ve not had the opportunity. I’m so excited to be a part of the piece that is entirely celebrating women.”
The lights went off at 8 p.m., signaling everyone to take a seat.
“Get used to hearing that word a lot: Vagina,” a narrator started, the audience laughing.
In between soft musical transitions, the all-female cast took turns performing a poem or skit relating to the feminine experience and used those experiences to relate to and empower women.
As a woman myself, watching this show made me feel comfortable, relatable and strong. Normalizing issues that many women feel shameful talking about is so important. And to make it even better, it was funny. Put a bunch of hilarious feminist friends on a stage together and they make the whole crowd feel at ease. It was hopeful and inspiring to also see a few men in the crowd.
Although the space was small and noise in the audience could easily be heard, the performers were engaging enough to hold everyone’s attention. The crowded apartment felt more like a big family gathering than a formal play. The lighting and decorated stage were perfect for the size of the venue and the microphones made it so someone sitting across the apartment could still hear.
Among the topics discussed were, of course, the vagina, orgasms, the menstrual cycle, birth, rape and genital mutilation. The conversation was sometimes serious, but mostly casual and funny. The crowd got a good laugh while learning to appreciate the art of being a woman.
The narrators started out by talking about vaginas and the clitoris.
“The clitoris is simply a bundle of nerves — 8,000 nerve fibers to be precise,” said performer Rachel Gleason. “That’s a higher concentration of nerve fibers that is found anywhere in the male or female body, including the fingertips, lips and tongue. And it is twice, twice, twice the number in the penis … Who needs a handgun when you’ve got a semi automatic?”
The crowd soon erupted in laughter, shouts and applause.
Producer Eirann Betka said she was glad at the first night’s turnout.
“It speaks to the teamwork of the actors in ‘The Vagina Monologues,’” Betka said. “Everyone just stepped up and did something different to make the night run smoothly.”
Mahave said this performance couldn’t come at a better time in the political climate, where “bullies feel okay with being bullies and misogynists are celebrating.”
“I think this is how we stand up together and fight back,” Mahave said. “To have our own centers of power and to say ‘this is our reality that we want, where women are powerful.’”
At the end of the show, the performers invited audience members to share stories, or submit them anonymously to be performed by the cast.
It was inspiring to see so many people turn out for a small performance with the name “vagina” in the name on a weekend night. The show was overall entertaining, smart, artistic and funny. Don’t miss the final performance tonight.
All tickets sales go to the Women’s Resource Center and the V-Day Foundation.
The Vagina Monologues GR
Feb. 3–4, Doors open at 7 p.m. for waitlist and unclaimed standing room spots
Show starts at 8 p.m.
The Fuse Box
120 S. Division #227, Grand Rapids
(Go behind the building.)
Tickets: $10; $8 if you bring a feminine product donation (tampons, pads, liners, diva cups); $5 standing room only
The performers invited audience members to submit stories anonymously or read them at the end of the show.