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Penn Women's Center and V-Day presented the 11th annual performance of the Vagina Monologues at Penn. All proceeds benefitted Women Organized Against Rape and the V-Day campaign. Credit: Alex Remnick

As the audience filed into an Irvine Auditorium decorated in red and black Friday and Saturday nights, female students marketed Silly Bandz and chocolate lollipops — “Vag-ollipops” — shaped like female genitalia.

It was all in the spirit of The Vagina Monologues, an annual performance which seeks to stimulate discussion and increase awareness of sexual violence against women.

The monologues this weekend drew from a vast range of subject matter, evoking both uproarious laughter and tears from performers and audience members alike.

One monologue had six performers give various responses to the question: “If your Penn vagina could talk, what would it say?” Many of the responses — including “Can I use Bursar?” and “Is this kosher?” — drew laughter from the audience.

However, comedic monologues were often followed by grave performances. Several presented the perspectives of rape victims, such as one which focused on the systematic rape of 20,000 to 50,000 Bosnian women in Yugoslavia during the 1990s. A new monologue this year memorialized Myriam Merlet, a women’s rights activist from Haiti who died in the January 2010 earthquake in Haiti and was responsible for bringing V-Day to Haiti.

According to the box office, Irvine Auditorium was at 90% capacity, meaning over 1,100 people attended each night. The performance is the largest fundraising event for V-Day Penn, which has raised $34,000 since this year’s campaign began in mid-January, according to this year’s producer of The Vagina Monologues and College senior Raya Jalabi, who is the former 34th Street Magazine managing editor.

Family members of the performers were among those in the audience. Sally Wolf, who traveled from Seattle to see her daughter Lucy perform on Saturday, said her reaction was one of “pride.”

“They all performed with such courage, and it made me think a lot,” she added.

Members of the Philadelphia community also came for the show. Shania Morris, a high school student from South Philadelphia, attended the event with a branch of the Philadelphia Student Union called “Soul Sistas,” a community of young female leaders in Philadelphia. She said she enjoyed the show and that some of the monologues covered historical events that “I never knew anything [about].”

Not all in attendance, however, shared Morris’ reaction. “[The Vagina Monologues] is supposed to take you out of your comfort zone, and it succeeded,” Engineering freshman Israel Geselowitz said.

“It was basically two hours of vaginas,” he added.

Overall, the show’s producers were very pleased with the event. “[The] turnout was awesome — unbelievable, actually,” said College senior Maya Tepler, the show’s director. “We really saw some magic tonight.”

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