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Student V-Day Performances Raise a Record $3,715 for Women's Organizations

With two sold-out performances, a raffle, and candy sales, Bryn Mawr's V-Day project raised a record $3,715 for organizations that combat violence against women, co-director Paige Walker '09 reports.

V-Day, which celebrates its 10th anniversary this year, is an international effort to raise awareness of and resist violence against women. The movement was founded by playwright Eve Ensler, who grants free licenses for benefit performances of her award-winning play The Vagina Monologues to hundreds of college and community groups around the world.

"Every year, Eve Ensler selects a spotlight cause—this year she's focusing on women of New Orleans and the Gulf states who have been affected by Hurricane Katrina—and 10 percent of the proceeds from each performance go to an organization that works with that group. The rest of the proceeds go to local organizations that support V-Day's mission," says Walker.

Once the proceeds are all tallied, the Bryn Mawr group will be sending a check for about $3,300 to Women Against Abuse, a nonprofit that describes itself as "the only comprehensive program in Philadelphia whose sole purpose is to assist victims of domestic violence and their children."

V-Day events were initiated at Bryn Mawr in 2001 by Molly Ahrens '03, the founder of the College's Body Image Council.

The Council is still one of the primary sponsors of the event, with support also coming from the Athletic Association, the Dean's Office, the Rainbow Alliance, Traditions, the Bryn Mawr Film Institute, Passionel, South Asian Women, the BMC rowing team, Grease Paint Productions, and the Shakespeare Performance Troupe.

The events have become enormously popular, with standing-room only crowds filling Thomas Great Hall to capacity for each of two performances. Over the years, the events have expanded to include "Vulvapalooza," a preperformance fair focusing on women's health, and this year, Walker and co-director Lauren Dubowski organized an art exhibit featuring works by Bryn Mawr students Jia Jia Fei '08, Lucy Edwards '08, Jess Schwartz '09, Juliana Magnifico '09, Anne Harding '10, and Andrea Dykyj '11. Some of the artworks were among the items raffled.

"We try to design the event so that as many people as possible can participate in some way," says Walker, "because people are really passionate about both the cause and the play. In November, more than 100 people auditioned for fewer than 25 parts, so we tried to make sure that there was some kind of role for everybody, even if it wasn't on stage."

This year's cast was Aquila Alexander '08, Dawne Ballard '08, Joanne Bunch McBride, '09, Lise Carpenter '08, Kate Duguid '09, Rebecca Findlay '10, Jima Islam '08, Shayna Israel '08, Leah KaneRisman '09, Al Keefe '11, Katie Kronbergs '08, Lily Mengesha '10, Dina Rubey '09, Margaret Sclanfani '08, Sharanya Sharma '11, Rebecca Woodruff '08, Larken Wright-Kennedy '11,  and Nic Yulo '11. Erina Donnelly '08 and Steph Migliori '09 produced the show; Allie Elkins '10 and Mari Stein '10 were understudies.

Ensler wrote The Vagina Monologues, the cornerstone of V-Day, after interviewing hundreds of women from around the world about their lives, particularly violence they had suffered as it related to their sexuality, and she has described the play as a celebration of women's empowerment through sexuality.

"It's a dramatic treatment of some very important issues that makes them much more immediate and real than reading statistics in a UN report," Walker says.

She acknowledges that it isn't everyone's cup of tea. "When I was selling tickets, I asked people if they'd be interested in buying one, and there were a few people who said, "Certainly not!"

But the sentiment at Bryn Mawr is overwhelmingly supportive of the venture, Walker says.

"Even the people who don't care for the premise of the play express their objections respectfully," she notes. "I'm so grateful for the enthusiasm and passion this project inspires here at Bryn Mawr, especially because I know that groups at some colleges have had to fight a lot of opposition to produce it."

"It's so exhilarating to be on that stage and see that enormous crowd of people clapping and cheering and sometimes yelling themselves hoarse, and to know that no matter how the production goes, anybody who sees it will learn something."

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Posted 2/21/2008 by Claudia Ginanni