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FMLA encourages students to perform their truths

Some folks giggle, others gasp and others lean in and take interest when the word “vagina” is uttered.

For more than two decades, Eve Ensler’s “The Vagina Monologues” has been performed on college campuses and by community groups across the globe to raise awareness and foster resources to end sexual assault and violence against women.

Ensler originally performed this as a one-person show.

But, Jill Eichhorn, Director of the APSU’s Women’s and Gender Studies Program, explained “so many women walked up to her after the show and shared their Vagina stories, Eve realized there was real power in this show.”

Since 1998, Ensler has offered the script free to colleges, universities (and along the way opened it up to community groups) to be performed in February, free of royalty charges — as long as the proceeds supported women and the end of sexual violence.

Since then, Eichhorn has worked with the Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance (FMLA) to stage an all-student-created,  dramatic reading at APSU.

Eichhorn’s goal in fostering this annual effort is “to get people to read who are not necessarily from the theater department, folks who are getting out of their comfort zone and really thinking about the messages inside the monologues.”

Eichhorn’s ideal learning progression is when a person will read one year, and later become a director.

A psychology major with a minor in Women and Gender and African American Studies, Kianna Marshall, is just such a devotee on the Vagina Monologue path of ascension.

Listen to our interview with “The Vagina Monologues” directors Dusty Coates and Kianna Marshall.

Back in 2016, Marshall read “The Angry Vagina” monologue.

“That is a pretty notorious monologue, funny, filled with profanities,” Marshall said.

It was her first experience talking publicly about things she felt privately, as sort of an act of resonance and solidarity with other women who faced the same challenges.

“Being a black director of this show,” Marshall said. ”is an opportunity for me to reach out to an audience who might have missed this.”

Marshall observed that communities of color “can be pretty conservative about talking publicly about women’s sexuality and health.”

She said she would like to see that change.

Marshall is sharing the director duties with Dusty Coates, a non-traditional student, retired from the Army after 20 years, now a junior majoring in history.

Coates read “The Flood” monologue in the 2018 production.

With her 43rd birthday arriving this month, Coates feels there are lessons in the Monologues for people of all generations and cultures.

Asked whether the Army is a likely place to find a feminist, Coates laughed and said, “yes and no.”

She said that sexual abuse is a real scourge in all organizations, including the military, but that “when I say that women deserve equality and to live a life free from violence and discrimination, the men I know get it.”

Coates went on to say to the potential men in the audience: “If you have a mother, a daughter, a wife or a girlfriend — if you love women, you should come be part of the ‘Vagina Monologues’.”

This year’s performances are scheduled on Wednesday, Feb. 20 and Friday, Feb. 22 at 7 p.m. in the Clement Auditorium.

Tickets are $5 with a Student ID and $10 for General Admission.

The FMLA also takes in additional donations to benefit the Clarksville Sexual Assault Center and Legal Aid of Middle Tennessee.

For more information about this program, the proceeds or Women’s and Gender Studies, contact Eichhorn at eichhornje@apsu.edu or (931) 221 –  6312.

About Sean Siple

Happy grandfather paying attention to my bucket list and living my best life at home and out in the world.

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