The Vagina Monolancs Interview – activism meets performance

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The Vagina Monolancs are a group of self-defining women who stage The Vagina Monologues every year. They combine activism with performance, and the money they raise is just as important as the awareness they spread of issues affecting women from different walks of life. Carolynne sat down with one of the four directors of The Vagina Monologues, Alice Pickersgill, ahead of its performance at The Storey next week.

Hi Alice, Tell me about your show.

The Vagina Monologues was written in 1996 by Eve Ensler, she did two years worth of interview with women across America. It started off as a one-woman show and has since grown into a mass movement and is performed at universities and institutions around the world in February as part of V-Day. At Lancaster, we have been performing it for 15 years.  It’s a different cast every year, but the message remains the same of spreading awareness of violence against women and raising money for a local charity. We perform the monologues, we also do a group monologue which is really fun, we also have a different original song every year which someone writes, the song this year is really good.

 What charity are you supporting this year?

We’re raising money for SafeNet which is a local charity which provides resources and refuge for anyone facing domestic or sexual abuse. It’s LGBT+ inclusive and welcomes anyone of any gender, age, sexuality, race or religion to use their services. You can find them at www.safenet.org.uk. Last year we raised over £3000, so we’re hoping to raise a lot of money this year.

 How do you make the show different every year?

We do the original monologues but we amend them in places because some of them are very binary and slightly problematic, but it’s something to be expected of something that’s over 20 years old. There are new monologues added every year by the original author so we use some of those, and we mix it up a bit by doing different monologues. There’s also a new cast every year and everyone has a different take on the monologues. If you saw it two years in a row you wouldn’t feel like you were seeing the same show.

 Apart from the show, what else does the society get up to?

We do bake sales most weeks in Alex square. We also organise the Lancaster University Run Against Domestic Violence. We have weekly meetings where we rehearse the monologues and chat. It’s a unique space of only women and non-binary people in the cast. We have men in our tech team who also raise money for us so there’s an opportunity for everyone to get involved but it’s very unique as a women’s society, because the monologues talk about issues you might not talk about with anyone else.

How can people get involved with the society?

You can find us at Freshers Fair, at a stall decorated with vagina artwork which usually gets weird looks from the freshers. You can find us on Facebook at The Vagina Monologues – Lancaster University or on Instagram @vaginamonolancs. Come to the show this year, see if you like it. You can get involved on stage or off, you don’t have to perform.

 What should people look forward to in the show this year?

We’ve tried to update it a bit this year because the show can be a bit dated, but at the same time, nothing has been written since that has been so controversial and open about women’s issues. We’ve updated it with new intros for the monologues and the show. We want to emphasise that the show is the start of a conversation and that it doesn’t encompass everyone’s experiences which is okay. We want people to think about what they hear and see and be inspired to write about their own experiences and use their voices.

The Vagina Monolancs 2018  will be performed at The Storey on Thursday 15th, Friday 16th and Saturday 17th February at 7.30pm. Tickets are £9 for students and £11 full price, with profits donated to SafeNet.  Tickets can be purchased on the door or reserved in advance by emailing vaginamonolancs2018@gmail.com.