As Ashley Juskalian sat in the Cross Cultural and Gender Center’s offices, she listened to cast members practice their monologues.
Juskalian and many others are part of Fresno State’s 2018 production of “The Vagina Monologues,” a play written by Eve Ensler, featuring stories told by different women and their experiences in life.
As the sole director of the show, Juskalian then introduced the next monologue, “My Angry Vagina,” recited by Emma DenBesten.
“My vagina’s angry. It is. It’s pissed off,” DenBesten begins.
As she practices her monologue, Juskalian motioned with her hands, trying to tell DenBesten to slow down.
That was the mood at practice two days before the opening night of the show.
This is the second year that Juskalian has been a part of the monologues. Last year she was the co-director.
“It’s interesting to take a step back from my vision [of] how the monologues should sound and [leave] room [to see] how someone does it differently,” Juskalian said.
This year, the show has much less staging in comparison to last year, according to Juskalian, leaving it to be much more stripped back with the show focusing on the words.
“I want people to know that even if they are hesitant to come to this show, the worst that can happen is that they come to the show and waste 90 minutes on a show that they didn’t like seeing. Nothing bad can happen,” Juskalian said. “Keep an open mind, and I think you’d be surprised [about] how much [of] what you hear speaks to you.”
The opening night of “The Vagina Monologues” was on Feb. 8 and was hosted by Fresno State’s Women’s Alliance and Fresno State’s Cross Cultural and Gender Center in the North Gym at 7 p.m. Before the show began, Juskalian started the night off with a joke.
“What’s the difference between pussy and parsley?”
The audience stayed silent. They waited for the answer.
“Nobody eats parsley,” Juskalian told the audience. That set the tone for the night.
Each cast member has a different monologue to recite, with topics ranging from the truths of having a vagina, to the multiple, varying experiences of being a woman.
While serious topics are discussed in the monologues, there is still a sense of humor displayed within each of the stories told.
DenBesten, who performed one of the more humorous monologues, “My Angry Vagina,” discussed having to feel the emotions presented in her monologue. While she gave an upbeat and lively performance, the story brings up many uncomfortable truths about having a vagina.
“I’d never said the word ‘vagina’ so many times in my life, and that was a new and exciting thing for me,” DenBesten said.
The cast members had been preparing for this show since the beginning of January, with it all leading up to the two performances in February.
“We’ve been rehearsing for this for a long time so to actually perform it in front of people and see everyone’s reactions is just great,” said Devyn Contreras, an equestrian science and sign language interpreting major and performer.
One of the positive differences members noted this year was being able to connect to the monologues after performing them for the audience.
“Hearing it live now with an audience, it feels not only like we’re hearing it for the first time and actually absorbing it, but also like we’re able to share our stories and their stories for other people to relate to, people with vaginas and so forth,” said Elizabeth Castillo, a political science and women’s studies major and performer.
Audience members took away vast knowledge about the different experiences brought up in the performances.
“I didn’t realize that so many women would grow up scared of their own body part,” said Kevin James Prill, a pre-business student. “It was really interesting to understand a different gender’s plight.”
The proceeds of this production benefited Marjaree Mason Center in Fresno.