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NRT Presents: ‘The Vagina Monologues’

No Refund Theatre is continuing its fall season of in-person productions this week by shedding light on gender inequity and injustice through social commentary and theatrical pursuits.

To continue its busy schedule of in-person events, No Refund Theatre presents “The Vagina Monologues“. Directed by senior Lyndsey Carr, the production featured short stories of the ever-changing dynamic of sexuality, body image, and domestic violence told by a diverse collection of women. Based on countless interviews conducted with real-life women, it presents an honest representation of gender issues and social stigma surrounding gender-based violence and sexuality in the 21st century.

Originally written by Eve Ensler, this Obie Award-winning production discusses gender inequality and sexual violence across the globe. From this work stemmed The V-Day Movement, a global activist organization also founded by Ensler. Its mission is clear: end violence against all women, all fluid identities at risk for gender-based violence, girls, and the planet.

The V-Day Movement believes that a blend of art and activism leads to a better world, and performances of the show across the world create a conversation around this mission of peace for all. For her work in creating this movement, V (formerly known as Eve Ensler when creating this work) won the Isabelle Stevenson Award at the 65th Annual Tony Awards. This honor is given to an individual who made invaluable contributions to humanitarian and social justice issues

“It’s huge and to bring it to Penn State’s campus is incredible…We’ve kind of created a kind of girl power group, a girl gang,” Tori Gamel, a performer in the show and senior student studying anthropology, said.

Running in tandem with Domestic Abuse Awareness Month and opening on Purple Thursday presented by Penn State’s Gender Equity Center, the content of The Vagina Monologues comes to campus at the perfect time. Still, creating this open conversation within the show staff and finding the confidence to present to the Penn State audience was not without its respective challenges for the entire production team and cast.

While the show originated as a research project on attitudes towards sexuality in society, there’s no doubt that the resulting production pushed performers and production staff to new limits when faced with the introspection of challenging topics ranging from domestic violence to lack of reproductive education in schools today.

Lyndsey Carr, a senior studying political science, remarked on her initial fear when approaching the script with her all-star cast.

“With a lot of the scenes we said ‘hey, let’s just start here at this lower level, and you bring it up whenever you want to,'” the director said.

In starting out small in rehearsal, Carr worked with her production team of senior Natalie Sites, junior Kathleen DeAngelis, and senior Jess Raskauskas to generate a safe space and teamwork approach to performance. Comfort was a key aspect in getting her performers ready to develop characters and bring these personally taxing themes to the Penn State community.

This teamwork approach became especially important when tackling the ending finale of the show, a self-written piece reflective of the performers’ own experience with gender issues and sexual harassment. In addition to exploring their own lives, the cast of fourteen researched college-level statistics to cultivate honest conversation about sexual violence within University Park. The creation of such material presented a demanding task for each performer, but in maintaining a focus on comfortability, the entire team worked together for a truthful, reflective result.

“I am so beyond incredibly proud of this cast. They are absolute rockstars,” Carr explained. “They went through so much with this process and there were a lot of bumps that we had to go through throughout this time.”

The cast echoed Carr’s joy and commitment to comfort and reimagined the ending piece through the eyes of a young woman on a Penn State campus.

“To say it lightly, this was cathartic…I never felt uncomfortable because I was given the space to be uncomfortable,” said junior cast member Ngozi Nwokeuku. “Our whole atmosphere has been girl power, and that’s what made it a lot easier to kind of be myself.”

This environment was something Carr and her production team strived for from the very beginning, and seeing it fulfilled through honest conversation was a thrill for the entire production team and cast.

“We made it very clear with the end piece that if at any point anybody needed to drop it, we would drop it,” Carr said.

“I love these girls, and we’ve gotten so comfortable sharing our stories,” Kathleen DeAngelis of the production staff explained, “They’re just the best.”

Performed globally by both dedicated thespians and survivors of domestic violence, The Vagina Monologues represents a commitment to ending gender-based violence far beyond campus. Brought to the Penn State community through a collection of young women confidently pursuing honest conversation in the hopes of change, this presentation is not one to miss.

Opening on Purple Thursday, hosted by Penn State’s Gender Equity Center, The Vagina Monologues will play in Forum 111 on Thursday, October 21 at 9 p.m., Friday, October 22 at 8 p.m., and Saturday, October 23, at 8 p.m.

As always, NRT performances are free of charge. Adult content is presented within The Vagina Monologues, and a trigger warning for references to sexual violence is also emphasized.

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About the Author

Lizzie Palmieri

Lizzie Palmieri is a current sophomore with an undecided major from Bucks County, Pennsylvania. Ask her about Disney World, Diet Pepsi or dancing on the Jumbotron at Beaver Stadium. When not causing general trouble, Lizzie enjoys playing golf, performing in theatre, and being the CEO of reorganizing the fridge. Her favorite thing to do is hang with her sassy sidekick, 17-year-old Italian Greyhound, Macaroni. Follow her on Twitter @lizziepalmieri if your deepest desire is bestie vibes only.

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