Author: Carmen Triola
Alongside 11 other women onstage and with a near-packed Thorne Hall watching, Frankie Radogna (senior) prepared herself for her big scene in the “Vagina Monologues” affectionately called, “The Moaner.” In this particularly popular piece, formally known as “The Woman Who Loved to Make Vaginas Happy,” Radogna played a sex worker who specialized in making women emit different kinds of moans. Now, she was about to hit the crux—here came a sampling, reenacted by Radogna herself, of such moans.
She put her script down, took her black blazer off and took a breath.
“There’s… the clit moan,” Radogna said. She crooned, her voice ripping through the air.
“There’s… the vaginal moan.” The noises grew louder. The audience sat, staring. She went through what seemed like 20 different types of moaning, never flinching for a moment.
The audience erupted in applause. There was shouting, snapping, feverous clapping. Spectators begged the cast for more.
Fourteen years of “The Moaner,” of loyal “Vagina Monologues” performers resurrecting Eve Ensler’s 19-year-old show, and the show still floors audiences. Although casts in recent years have updated the show while also trying to make it more inclusive, the core theme has remained the same celebration of female sexuality. It is a platform for issues affecting women worldwide. It is a force to combat domestic violence (proceeds for the show were directed towards an organization Peace Over Violence). It is a hallmark of Occidental.
“The issues that women face is something that is not stagnant, and it’s always changing. As a result, the show is always changing,” cast member Ariella N’Diaye (senior) said.
A new piece, “This is What Queer Looks Like,” was written by Olivia Davis (sophomore) and Carlina Perna (senior) and performed by the former. The monologue talked about microaggressions against queer-identifying people as well as commonly held stereotypes.
“Queer means lying in bed next to your girlfriend, writing about what queer looks like—meta-queer,” Davis said during the piece. “It means diluting the experiences of an entire people into one monologue.”
Two monologues written by last year’s cast, “Street Harassment” and “Cumming of Age,” also returned. The latter included stories about each cast member’s first time masturbating and the stigma that some felt.
Estrelle Lucero ’14, who performed in the Vagina Monologues as a student, said she was impressed by this year’s more “amped up” interpretations of “Cumming of Age” and “My Short Skirt.”
“I’m so proud of them. They really killed it,” Lucero said. “The show is really old, and sometimes it doesn’t age well.”
The cast also featured two original pieces from outside productions, titled “Girl Code 101” by Blythe Baird and “The Period Poem” by Dominique Christina, both of whom are slam poets.
Baird’s monologue talked about different attitudes and behaviors taught to women as they grow up. Cast members traded off lines about being told what they ought to wear and brushing off street harassment. These topics were explored more deeply later in both “Street Harassment” and “My Short Skirt.”
“The Period Poem” was prompted by a tweet from a man who claimed that he broke up with with his girlfriend because she started having her period during intercourse. Christina wrote that menstruation was an unpredictable occurrence, but that the blood was more of a blessing than anything else.
An older monologue, “Fur is Back,” performed by Amanda Fein (senior), incorporated current social justice issues such as the #blacklivesmatter movement, the kidnapping of over 200 Nigerian girls by Boko Haram and recent murders of transgender people across the country. The piece, told from a student’s perspective, criticized those who would rather attend a metaphorical “party” of ignorance than confront global injustices.
The cast also brought back a piece last performed at Occidental two years ago, “They Beat the Girl Out of My Boy…Or So They Tried,” written by Ensler and first included in a 2004 show performed by an all-transgender cast in Los Angeles. The monologue discusses societal pressures to conform to one’s assigned gender, and the often violent backlash that follows if a person does not.
Ultimately, the final product seemed to satisfy audiences once again.
“I’ve been coming for three years, and it’s always been one of my favorite events,” Kathryn Arnett (senior) said. “It makes me really proud to be a woman. I always feel a lot of solidarity when I go.”
Lily Thrope (senior) appreciated the monologues’ ability to address topics society traditionally deems taboo while also teaching the audience about the daily female experience.
“It makes you feel connected to the material instead of scared of the issues,” Thrope said.
Jasmine Tovar ’14, who has seen the show four or five times at Occidental, said that her feelings towards the play have changed with each viewing.
“I think the first time I saw it I was shocked,” Tovar said. “I think the more I heard, the more I thought, ‘This should be the norm.’ Hopefully these conversations get carried on outside of Thorne.”
Proceeds made from tickets, as well as the T-shirts sold to promote the show, will be donated to Peace Over Violence.
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