The Vagina Monologues Director’s Notes

This page contains directors notes specifically on The Vagina Monologues . To learn more about directing in general, please visit the Directing page.

The Vagina Monologues has a complex history as a play, so it will be useful for me to begin this page by describing its origins. In 1996 Eve Ensler, having interviewed a variety of women about their vaginas, performed The Vagina Monologues off-Broadway, where it won an Obie in 1997. It continued as an Off-Broadway and touring production, featuring three constantly rotating celebrity actresses, until 2003. The play also has been performed around the world, in such locations as Kenya and the Philippines. In 1998 the first V-Day took place, which was a celebrity benefit performance of The Vagina Monologues. Proceeds went to various charities committed to ending violence against women. In 1999, V-Day began to act locally, and Eve Ensler generously made the rights of her script available to universities and communities who may perform the play as long as the proceeds go to local women’s charities, with an additional 10% earmarked for a different international charity each year. Each of the performance texts, the original piece Ensler performed, the touring script written for three actresses, and the ever changing V-Day script are to be read slightly differently. For a more full consideration of my response to The Vagina Monologues, please read my paper I gave to the Humanities Center, left. I also have provided a handout explaining my directing approach.

My experience with The Vagina Monologues all started in London in 2001. I bought my tickets from someone outside the theatre and it turned out to be a front row seat. It gave me the opportunity to note the very simple stage design—downstage, the stage itself was littered with shoes which had been dyed blood red. It was a striking image, but perhaps easily lost on those audience members who were not lucky enough to sit so close to the stage. In 2003, Christine Lissitzyn asked me to co-direct the 2004 University of Hartford/Hartford College for Women. I had seen the 2003 version and I thought there might be a few ways ways I could make a particular contribution to the production, which has taken place at the University for a number of years. The matter was complicated because College Campaign participants are in fact discouraged from placing too much of their own artistic “stamp” on the piece. As the V-Day Organizer’s Handbook states, “We encourage you to have as few rehearsals as possible. […] Participating in a V-Day production is supposed to be fun, educational and empowering, not a burden.” (V-day Organizer’s Kit). To get a sense of the kind of restrictions placed on the organizers, click here. I felt that as a piece of theatre, it was perhaps too static for my tastes for the women to enter, read their lines and exit. I thought I could add something to the texture of the play to add a pre-show, to use slides as “scenery,” as I had with my earlier play Trilby and Svengali, and to add music at particular moments. To see more about the pre-show, visit the pre-show page.