Breaking Legs and Healing Hearts

Sara Santini, a Serbian UGRAD studying at California State University- Monterey Bay (CSUMB), participated in her school’s production of the Vagina Monologues. She reflects on this experience and the impact it made on both her personally and emotionally.

Hearing the title “Vagina Monologues” usually provokes interesting reactions in people. Some of them burst into laughter, awkwardly look away, or curiously ask about the meaning of the weird syntagm. In the beginning of my fall semester at CSUMB, I was equally unaware of the meaning behind that provocative title. I thought it was some sort of a feminist play and my knowledge didn’t go any further. But on the day of the showcase of all the student clubs that my university has to offer, after leaving my email address at the various tables (from Outdoor Adventures and Gardening Club to Chinese Lion Dance Club), I stopped at the “Vagina Monologues” table. I thought I might miss the theater group I am a member of back home during my time in the U.S., so I decided to give this a chance and sign up. When I got an email about the casting call, I nervously went to see if I could maybe make it. That turned out to be one of the more impactful decisions I made during my school year here.

Sara Santini

What started in 1996 as a play written by Eve Ensler evolved into a movement uniting and empowering women (and men) all over the world. The “Vagina Monologues” is performed in various venues worldwide. I can say that being a part of this production definitely changed the way I see some of the problems in the U.S. society – problems that actually exist on a global level. Rape, violence (be it physical, verbal, or any other) and gender inequalities are burning issues still present all around us. If these issues are not brought up, they will never be solved. And I am glad I got to be a part of a movement on my campus dealing with them.

After the casting and call-backs, I found out I was in this year’s cast of “Vagina Monologues”. I was excited because I had multiple parts in different scenes (the play is organized into episodes, each based on interviews with various women that Eve Ensler collected over the years). We had rehearsals two times each week during the fall semester, and I got to enjoy meeting many wonderful girls in the cast. But it wasn’t until the so-called “Vagina week” that I actually understood the meaning of the entire movement and realized that it is not just a play that is staged for a couple of nights. We all came back from the winter break a week early to have 5 days of intensive full day rehearsals. During that week, I experienced so many new emotions, got so much closer with all the girls, got to hear some of their stories and share their experiences that deeply touched me, left me surprised, inspired, sad or furious, and that made me understand the intensity of what the “Vagina Monologues” are for those participating in it, and not only for the audience watching the play.

Soon enough, the performance days came. We performed in the university theater for three nights in a row and each night we had larger and larger audience (the final night, the 400-seat hall was nearly full). I was nervous about performing in English for the first time, and for all my friends to see me on stage. The personal piece that I wrote explaining why I am in the movement was incorporated into the final part of the show, which made me proud but at the same time I felt shy and anxious. Despite all my fears, everything went great. The show is extremely intense and it takes the audience on an emotional roller coaster. Each night I found myself shaken by everything I’d felt on stage and all the amazing performances of the other actresses. The final night I couldn’t believe everything was over and that I wouldn’t be seeing all those amazing girls I’d met through the play anymore. But I still see most of them often, and am friends with a couple.

For several weeks after the show, people would recognize me on campus, comment on my performance and say how touched they felt after seeing our play. This made me feel like we did make a change – even if it was just a small change in the hearts of the spectators, it still was an accomplishment. But the biggest change, I think, is the one that happened in me, thanks to everything I learned, experienced and shared with all the girls in the cast and the production team. The change that left us all empowered, inspired and much more confident to face all the challenges that might be in front of us. I am really happy I got a chance to be a part of the “Vagina Monologues” movement through performing on stage and, as one of the girls from last year’s cast wrote, “breaking legs and healing hearts”.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *