This article originally appeared in the February 2016 print edition.
By Rebekah Rodriguez
Three years ago, on the eve of my eighteenth birthday, I was scrolling through my news feed when I came upon an announcement. It turned out to be a casting call taking place the next day for Eve Ensler’s famous play, The Vagina Monologues.
With less than twenty-four hours left for me to consider the audition, I did a very un-Rebekah thing. I decided to just go for it. Of course, there was one small thing I had to do before and after the audition: I had to tell my family. My dad was the first one. To my surprise, he was supportive of the idea. To him, this was a stepping-stone toward getting out of my comfort zone. With his blessing, I auditioned for what my grandfather came to call “the play about lady parts” on my first day of legal adulthood. (If you’re wondering how my grandfather knew about it, it’s because my dad brought up the audition during my birthday dinner the following day.)
About three or four days later, I was told that I’d been cast. Naturally, I was excited to be part of such a great production. I was also happy because it was my first successful audition ever. Yet with the casting came the duty of letting everyone know. I could have just kept the news as close to myself as possible, but it seemed wrong and counterproductive. Since the proceeds benefited the local rape crisis center, we wanted as many people as possible to attend.
Thus began the awkward conversations with teachers, friends, and family. I always started off my pitch with “Well, this play isn’t for everyone, but…”. Some people I invited only through text, with the same uneasy approach. As passionate as I was about the cause, the looks on people’s faces from hearing the title alone didn’t help much. Some responses were supportive, while others were discouraging.
Nevertheless, the show opened on Valentine’s Day. We had some technical difficulties that couldn’t be solved in time, but somehow we made it work. The show had a bilingual run—two performances in English, and two in Spanish—and I was part of the English cast.
I performed the monologue “My Vagina Was My Village”, which I’d also read at my audition. It’s one of the most graphic, heartbreaking, and unfortunately, realistic pieces in the play. I used a few YouTube videos of other readings as points of reference, but a lot of the emotion had to come from me. Believe me when I say I found the emotion, a lot more than I expected. To this day, even reading the monologue to myself brings back the same images I had in my head while onstage.
Now, I’m not a big fan of clichés or melodramatic conclusions, but something happened during those two days: I changed.
While I didn’t march at the state capitol and start my own revolution after the play, I feel I became a lot more aware about others and myself. From serious issues such as rape and FGM to simple things such as tampons and feminine hygiene, I realized there is no shame in being a woman, nor speaking about these topics (or anything), either. Prior to joining the cast, I was never one to share my opinion, unless someone asked for it. Three years later, through ups and downs, I think I can safely say things have changed.
Pretty soon, I’ll be up there again. I’ll be doing the same monologue this time around, and the passion is still there even after three years. Never in my life did I imagine I’d be doing something like this, but here I am, unapologetically.
Who knows? Maybe that was my own revolution within myself.