Kutztown University's "The Vagina Monologues" raised about $4,500 toward the fight against domestic violence on Feb. 7 and 8."I hope, in addition to enjoyment, the audience begins to realize that domestic violence and sexual assault exist," said Grace Hill, of the Kutztown University Women's Center.

A mixed crowd of college students, family, men and women laughed and cried together at the University's eighth annual student production of Eve Ensler's Obie-award winning play, "The Vagina Monologues."

"There's what the public sees, which is the laughter and outrageous words, but I see the student involvement and growth and watch the students move on to help other women," said Hill. "That they begin a dialogue about what we can all do together to stop violence against women and children."

The monologues are a quirky, humorous and poignant exploration of the female experience, presented by the Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance and the KU Women's Center. Based on hundreds of interviews done by Ensler with women of all walks of life, the production celebrates women's experiences and empowerment in a humorous yet "in-your-face" dialogue.

The performance is in conjunction with worldwide V-Day campaigns to raise awareness and funds for local anti-violence initiatives.

Hill said the purpose of "The Vagina Monologues" is to raise awareness about the issues of violence against women and children while raising funds for local agencies that focus on aiding victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. Organizations to benefit from this year's production at the University include Berks Women in Crisis, Turning Point of Lehigh Valley, Planned Parenthood and Kristina Warriors.

Hill explained that the Berks Women in Crisis and Turning Point of the Lehigh Valley provide shelter, education and assistance to victims of domestic violence. Berks Women in Crisis also helps those dealing with sexual assault.

"Planned Parenthood provides education and services in all areas of women's rights, including medical and educational programs," said Hill.

Ten percent of proceeds will benefit the Kristina Warriors, which will go toward women's services in New Orleans through the V-Day organization.

What do all of these organizations have in common?

"They provide a safe space for victims of all kinds of abuse. They provide resources for victims to find housing, funding, counseling, everything that they need," said Hill.

Another benefit Hill sees is to the growth of the 15 participants, those on stage reciting and performing the monologues.

"They're not theater students, but they're dedicated to telling the women's stories. In saying the women's stories and understanding the stories, the students themselves experience personal growth," said Hill. "For many, they gain a life long commitment to women's issues."

She described participating in the Vagina Monologues as becoming part of a global sister-hood of V-Day.

"It's not just a show; the words begin to have real meaning for the cast and the audience," said Hill. "It's something people would never discuss unless it was through a venue like this."

Hill said a lot of what was discussed was how women view themselves. The monologues examine sense of self, sexuality, womanhood, stages of life and what it means to be a woman. The monologues open dialogue between men and women.

"Most women are not taught to be aware of their bodies or their emotions, much less talk about body parts like the vagina," said Hill.

Cast member Erica Hesselson, a graduate assistant and coordinator of the Off-campus Advisory Council, performed the monologue "The Flood." This was her sixth show.

"This is the most empowering experience for a woman," said Hesselson.

The cast, she said, becomes part of of a community of women. The stories become a part of themselves. She described the experience as magical and a sense of blossoming.

"Another important part is education and awareness, talking to students about ending violence against women," she said. "Because it happens even in a small place like Kutztown."

Hesselson hopes the audience will talk about women's issues.

"I hope that the word vagina is not a bad, scary word any more," she said.

Junior Amanda Santulli, vice president of the Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance at KU, portrayed Eve Ensler. She likes that the production raises awareness about violence against women because she is passionate about the cause.

"It really brings the issue front and center," said Santulli. "There are ways that you can help. Just by coming makes a big contribution."

Tickets were $5 a piece. Chocolate vaginas were also sold. Eduational literature was offered by the benefactor organizations, including Turning Point and Berks Women in Crisis.

Junior Megan Eschman was the student director and coordinator of the monologues. She presented the monologue "The Woman Who Liked to Make Vaginas Happy."

"My goal was to empower these women and reflect our commitment to the cause," said Eschman. "I want people to understand that violence against women is not something that happens to people who they don't know. All of the women in the audience I hope will take a stand against violence against women and girls."

At the end of the show, the cast asked the audience who knew someone affected by violence against women. Nearly the entire audience stood.

Contact Lisa Mitchell by e-mail at lmitchell@berksmontnews.com.

Cabela's in Hamburg was recently recognized for education support by hosting the PA Recreation and Park Society's annual Resource Operations Workshop, held each fall since 2004. Society Executive Director Robert Griffith and the Society's Park Resource Branch President Kurt Uhler was presented a plaque on Jan. 9.

Land managers, park rangers, conservation officers with the Commonwealth's fish and boat commissions, and others in municipal government attend the Society's annual Resource Operations Workshop, a day-long event of classroom and field training at Cabela's.

The workshop, which typically had 30 to 60 attendees, moved to Cabela's in 2004. Since then, attendance has nearly doubled, said Griffith.

Educational sessions have included such timely topics as deer population management and controlling invasive plants, to specialized training such as maintaining public playgrounds, ballfield maintenance, and streambank restoration.

The workshops also offer many professionals the opportunity to maintain certification through continuing education.

Contributed by Neal McNutt, Park Maintenance Superintendent for Muhlenberg Township Parks and Recreation.

comments powered by Disqus