Twenty women of various ages arranged their chairs in a circle in the Trails Room in Fort Hays State University's Memorial Union. This was the first time all the women in the upcoming performance of "The Vagina Monologues" had been together in one place.
An eclectic group had gathered on the evening of Wednesday, Jan. 25. Some of the women were senior citizens, some were university freshmen. Some knew exactly which monologue they wanted to perform, and some had never seen a copy of the script. But each had her own reason for auditioning.
"I felt it was my responsibility to me and those who haven't found their voice," said Amanda Kay Stinemetz, Hill City senior, student representative to the Women and Gender Studies Program Committee and founder of the Student Feminist Organization.
"It's an important issue to think about, and people need to talk about it. You may as well do it on stage to a mass audience," said Rachel Baxa, Peetz, CO, freshman.
"I looked at V-Day's website, and that pushed me even farther to come to auditions," said Jenn Wilson, Colby junior, referring to the V-Day organization.
The V-Day movement was started by "Vagina Monologues" author Eve Ensler as an organized commitment to ending violence against women and girls worldwide. Once a year, Ensler waives production royalties for worldwide and college campaigns and, in exchange, all performance proceeds are used to further V-Day's mission. FHSU will participate for the first time this year.
"It's good to be involved in a production that uses its profits to benefit the community," said Krystal Baugher, Greeley senior.
The majority of the FHSU production's proceeds will remain in the community, with 90 percent going to Northwest Kansas Domestic and Sexual Violence Services, which serves 18 counties in northwest Kansas, and 10 percent going towards this year's V-Day spotlight issue: Justice to "Comfort Women."
According to a pamphlet given to the auditioners, "The euphemism 'comfort women' was coined by imperial Japan to refer to young females of various ethnic and national backgrounds who were forced to offer sexual services to the Japanese troops during the Asia/Pacific Wars between 1932 and 1945."
More than 2,000 colleges and communities are expected to participate in the 2006 Worldwide and College Campaign, as enthusiasm and support for V-Day's cause spreads globally.
The actresses are aware of the controversy that can accompany the show.
"I can understand why people don't discuss this stuff in public forum because I don't discuss it in my private life," said Shelby Jacobs, Gorham senior.
Erin Renard, Russell, graduate student and the show's director, is aware of the potential tension.
"Before the show starts, your audience is going to be just as nervous about what is going to happen as you are," she told the actresses during auditions.
Renard chose to direct "The Vagina Monologues" because, "I'm interested in pursuing some of these issues in my thesis; they are possible areas to explore."
While the show addresses the physical and emotional abuse of women and girls, the show will begin with a humorous piece to make everyone more comfortable.
"Our primary purpose is to educate and spread awareness," said Amy Young, German instructor, interim co-chair of the Women and Gender Studies Program and an actress in the show.
Jess Klein, Hays community member, hopes people come with an open mind. "These are words that need to be spoken, and men and women everywhere need to hear them."
"The Vagina Monologues" is co-sponsored by FHSU Theatre and the Women and Gender Studies program.
Performances will begin at 8 p.m., March 2 to 4, in Felton-Start Theatre in Malloy Hall.
FHSU Theatre season ticket holders will receive a discount and may purchase tickets for $5. Non-season ticket holders may purchase tickets for $10. Tickets will be available at the door.
To learn more about V-Day Fort Hays State University 2006, contact Cody Hughes, the campaign's public relations coordinator, at firstname.lastname@example.org or (785) 259-2587. To learn more about V-Day, visit www.vday.org.