Students gathered in St. Elmo Club's backyard Wednesday night for a speakeasy centered around gender, sexuality and intersectionality.
UPenn V-Day and St. Elmo Club co-hosted the open mic night as a follow up to the Vagina Monologues, a play performed annually by UPenn V-Day in Irvine Auditorium. This year it was performed on Feb. 10 and 11.
The speakeasy featured 10 people who performed original poetry, music, stand-up comedy and monologues — and highlighted voices not heard in the script of the play.
The number of Penn women of color in the Vagina Monologues has increased since its debut on campus 17 years ago, and for the first time this year’s production featured transgender cast members. V-Day Publicity Chair and College junior Johanna Matt-Navarro said the content of the play has not changed greatly since it was written in the 1990s because performers are legally obligated to follow the original script.
“It’s become very obvious throughout the years that Vagina Monologues in a lot of ways isn’t very inclusive," she said. "And because of legal issues the script can’t be altered.”
For some, the speakeasy was a place to share personal experiences that were not showcased in the play.
College senior and author Marissa Alexa McCool, who performed a monologue at the event, said she appreciated that the speakeasy gave her the chance to perform a monologue she had written about her own perspective.
"They thought I should be a real man, be a provider, protector, breadwinner, the cuddler, the kisser, the initiator," she read during her monologue. “What would the world think? What would my parents think? What would happen to me? Would I be bullied? Beaten? Assaulted? Killed?”
Attendees paid $5 for entry and all proceeds went to Women Organized Against Rape, the sole full-service rape crisis center in Philadelphia.
Navarro said members of UPenn V-Day are talking about their visions for the future of the Vagina Monologues at Penn. Productions of the play at some colleges such as the University of California at Berkeley have begun to include original monologues in their performances at their own legal risk; others have replaced the play entirely with new monologues.
“I’m planning on having a meeting after spring break for people both from V-Day and outside of the V-Day community to talk about how they feel about the play and how they see it moving forward,” she said.
For some, the speakeasy was simply a place to relax and hear creative content.
“Tonight’s event was very reflective and thoughtful and powerful,” Engineering junior Yoni Nachmany said.