Would you ever stand before a live audience and share some of your most intimate stories about masturbation, identity and sex? Probably not, but that is exactly what Ruthie Bolotin ’13 will be doing for her senior project in Drama, The Vagina Narrative.
Inspired by Eve Ensler’s The Vagina Monolgues, Bolotin, a Psychology and Drama major, wrote the mostly autobiographical script from her own experiences and journal entries in college and high school. She will also star in the one woman show.
“I really do appreciate The Vagina Monologues as a text and feminist piece of theater, but there are problems with it and one of the problems I have is that it is fragments and sections of women’s experiences,” Bolotin explained. “When I read it in high school, I thought I could write a whole book on my experiences and I think a lot of women would feel the same way, from the confusion to the violation and to the pleasure. I think every woman has experiences that run the gamut, so I wanted to put that on stage.”
Also distinct from Ensler’s text is the structure of The Vagina Narrative. Rather than compose the play as a series of monologues, Bolotin has included various forms of expression.
“It’s essentially five modes of story-telling— spoken word, pretty much verbatim entries from my journals, an impersonation of characters in my life, so donning costumes and becoming my mother for example,” she said with a laugh. “And the 5th mode of storytelling is puppetry, so there are some very child-like, nostalgic looking puppets that we crafted,” she added.
Bolotin is principally the writer and star of the show, but the project is very tightly collaborative among Director Angela Dumlao ’13, Set Designer Sam Garcia ’13, and Light Designer Case Stewart ’13.
Boloton has been involved with drama at Vassar since her freshman year, performing in Hamlet: The First Quarto, Our Hearts Were Young and Gay, and Doublefalsehood, to name a few. However, she has most been involved as a Program Coordinator with Hip Hop Theater, a program through Real Skills at the Poughkeepsie Family Partnership Center. Hip Hop Theater organizes collaborative theater among Poughkeepsie elementary, middle, and high school students with Vassar students.
Of Bolotin, Dumlao said in an emailed statement: “Ruthie is a force to be reckoned with. I am constantly in awe of the work she does both in writing the show and in performing it.”
Despite putting out her intimate stories for an audience to hear, Bolotin asserted that she is more excited for the show than nervous. That said, there are some aspects of that she is a little more anxious about sharing, and her parents were a bit apprehensive about the show as well.
“My mom keeps asking me ‘are you sure you want to do this?’ Isn’t this is a little intimate?’ And my parents and my aunt are coming – they wanted to read it beforehand so they could sort of mentally prepare themselves,” she said with a laugh. “
What’s nerve wracking for me isn’t so much the stories. Now I’m comfortable enough telling them. First writing them out was more difficult, but now it’s just something that I want to share with people,” she added.
In particular, Bolotin said that she is nervous about sharing stories about her current girlfriend. “I had a lot of anxieties about that because I think it’s hard with something so current to step away from it,” she explained. “And those are the stories that have the most to do with orgasms, and it’s always awkward to be like ‘hey my girlfriend and I, we are having sex, and guess what—she ’s here in the audience today!’”
Bolotin said that of the various mediums that she is utilizing, her favorite is perhaps the spoken word poetry. “This is the first time I’ve really delved into spoken word poetry and I think it’s a really beautiful medium,” she said. “I feel that vulnerability mixed with a theatrical, rhythmic performativity is a nice combination.”
Bolotin feels that the Vassar community and beyond can gain insight from seeing a show that honestly expresses themes dealing with female identity and sexuality, and that it is important that these truths are no longer swept under the rug or dismissed as shameful; they must be brought out into the open.
“American society can benefit from seeing more women tell their truths holistically,” explained Bolotin. “And at any liberal institution like Vassar you have a tendency to think that issues we need to address as a society happen outside of these walls, whereas when you bring something in and you address that we don’t really talk about these taboos here, let’s talk about them; and I think people will respond to that.”
Another unique aspect of the show to Vassar is that it is original student work, whereas the majority of productions at the College are from other texts and scripts. Dumlao asserted that she is very excited to be working on original student work as her final involvement in theater at Vassar, and that the piece’s originality has allowed for a strong sense of camaraderie among the crew.
“I love collaborating on new work and I hope to do more of it in the future,” she said. “There is a great energy in the room, and we’ve all become very close very quickly.”
In turn, Bolotin has found working with Dumlao very beneficial. Bolotin has found collaborating with Dumlao helpful because it widens the scope of the play beyond just her perspective and stories. “It’s great to have her be that outside pair of eyes,” said Bolotin. “If I were acting and directing there would be no other perspective.”
The Vagina Narrative will be performed this Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m. in the Streep Studio.