Over 80 women will perform in the College’s second annual production of “RISE: Untold Stories of Bowdoin Women” today and Saturday in Kresge Auditorium, following last night’s debut performance. The show, built around Bowdoin students’ stories about relationships, hookups and other gendered experiences, replaced the production of “The Vagina Monologues,” seeking more intersectionality and stories that better represented the real experiences of Bowdoin women. “The Vagina Monologues” was written in 1995 by Eve Ensler and was regularly performed on Bowdoin’s campus up until last year.
Jenna Scott ’19, Eskedar Girmash ’20, Lucia Gagliardone ’20, Shannon Knight ’18 and Aisha Rickford ’20 organized, wrote, directed and produced this year’s performance, some as leaders of the student group putting on the show, fEMPOWER.
With an increased number of participants this year, the directors had to make adjustments in order to include every woman who auditioned.
“We have about 20 more women [than last year], which has been a really fantastic and wonderful experience, but it also brought up a bunch of new challenges, such as staging,” Knight said.
The show covers a wide range of stories and experiences, from stories about hookups, to body image, to instances of gender violence. The original production of RISE last year was based on student submissions. The organizers built on that foundation this year by soliciting more stories from students, as well as holding a discussion with the Women of Color Coalition.
“Last year, obviously, was the first year they did it and so that came with its own set of challenges. We’ve been able to work with the format they created last year and add on to it and keep it fresh,” Gagliardone said. “I’m so forever grateful for the work they did last year, and I’m just excited that we get to continue it.”
While the writers retained several of the monologues from last year’s production, most of the stories this year come from new submissions, which was encouraging to Scott.
“I think that, having had the show last year, people who were skeptical about what it was going to be and how their stories would be translated now feel comfortable sharing,” she said. “But I think that this year we really worked to create an inclusive environment, and now people know they can share their story, and we won’t do anything to harm it or make it sound not like what they wrote. So [people] know that [their stories] are safe with us, and therefore women stepped forward to share their stories.”
Still, Scott acknowledged that despite the group’s efforts, the script does not reflect every woman’s experience.
“There is a caveat that our script entirely depends on what we received,” Scott said. “And so we are working to present the ones that we did receive.”
Knight noted that the absence of certain stories is one way RISE gives the production a goal for the future.
“I really hope that people come to the show, even if they feel that they don’t personally connect to the pieces. [I hope that they] feel encouraged to put their stories in next year and to really personalize it for them,” she said.
For cast members, the show provides a strong community, both inside and outside of rehearsal.
“We’re talking about struggles that women go through but also the triumphs,” said Devon Garcia ’21, a first-time participant. “I think a big goal is to express … how we can push through the difficult times and support each other in both the good and bad.”
Gagliardone noted the broader implications of women sharing women’s stories.
“I really think we live in a society that is inherently violent towards women. There’s physical and sexual violence, but also cultural violence, and we live in a society where women’s voices are frequently silenced or invalidated,” she said. “I think this show, for me personally, serves as a political act to counter that.”
RISE opened yesterday and is showing tonight and Saturday at 7 p.m. in Kresge Auditorium. Tickets can be purchased at the Smith Union Information Desk for $5. All proceeds from the production benefit Sexual Assault Support Services of Midcoast Maine and Family Crisis Services.