Jerry Seinfeld once said that more people are afraid of public speaking than are afraid of death and consequently a sizable chunk of the American population would rather be the guy in the casket than the one delivering the eulogy.

I can understand this. Then again, it’s almost common knowledge that deep down, everyone wants to be an actor. I can understand this, too.

And so it was with mixed emotions that I made my theatrical debut as a sexist bigot on the stage of the Power Center last month wearing a “Vote for Proposal 2” T-shirt and speaking only two words: “Vagaina motherfuckers.”

A cameo as the embodiment of patriarchal domination in “The Vagina Monologues” wasn’t exactly the sort of exposure needed to get my fledgling acting career off the ground. Despite my small role, I stood apart from the rest my castmates. There was one thing I had that none of the other performers had (save two of my scene partners). It was something I had that technically, was illegal in any performance of this play: a penis.

Yes, I was one of the men in “The Vagina Monologues” – a play with a clause written into the copyright agreement specifying that men be excluded from the production. It wasn’t exactly a violation, though. As my director put it, I was cast not as a character but as a prop.

You needn’t cry “sexual discrimination” or “stop objectifying men!” My less than glamorous role and the director’s unfortunate description of it, were necessary evils in the pursuit of gender equality and a good show.

When I first got the call to be in the play by director Leanna Millan, I was as giddy as a schoolgirl. Finally, I would be able to join the ranks of Brad Pitt, Sean Connery and Clive Owen in the sexiest of professions – acting stardom. I had never seen the play before, and I wondered what medley of pubic hair, periods and placenta I would be exposed to at rehearsal.

Excitement turned to terror when I realized I would be playing a bad guy. Terrible visions of what lay ahead flitted across my mind: There was a memory of once feeling like a piece of meat in a cage full of hungry tigers as I sat in a overpriced hair salon, while a pack of female hairdressers leered at me and touched my head. I pictured walking into a room of militant feminists bent on removing my more delicate man parts with words sharpened like cheese graters.

I just kept thinking: Don’t hit on the women, don’t hit on the women. Hell, don’t even open your mouth for fear that someone may think you are hitting on them and slap you.

The atmosphere was much more welcoming than I had feared. The women were kind and seemed glad to have three men in the cast showing support for feminism. I recognized a friend, a beautiful, tan woman with a red 5-inch mohawk, who introduced me around the room. People said “nice to see you here” and “thanks for showing your support.” My fear was quelled, at least momentarily.

Soon it was time for my scene, “Angry Vaginas.” I was told when to walk onstage and when to say my lines, but Millan and the girls refrained from telling me the lines that would be spoken at me. I was supposed to act as though I wasn’t paying attention to any of the women. Before we walked onstage, my scene partner, a soft-spoken, good-natured woman named Ryan, explained my cues once again. She calmed my nerves before I had to deliver my one and only line. We walked onstage, and after my cue (it was the word “cunt”), I shouted the line to faux gasps and boos from onlooking actors. Ryan turned around. Then she looked me right in the eye and surprised me.

Her softness turned to righteous fire, and she hit me with an arsenal of words that, because of the sheer terror of the moment, I can hardly remember. Something about scratchy tampons, ordering the fish and gaping baby vaginas.

It was clear to me then that I wasn’t really destined to be an actor. As I stood there with my mouth slightly open I was fairly sure I wasn’t even going to be a very good prop. But seeing the change in a real actor was almost inspiring. Not just because she snapped into character so fluidly but because of the virulent material she was flinging in my direction. I was struck by the idea that at least on that stage, during that scene, she was miles away from being a voiceless victim. Which is I guess what the monologues are all about.

If I could go back, I’d do it again. That’s not to say I’m going to go looking for another casting call. I’m abandoning my Hollywood dreams, though I did manage to conquer my fear of speaking in public, or at least, I was able to swallow my stage fright and shout a couple of obscenities.

Gender equality, not sensitivity, is the real goal. I like to think that our production underscored this, literally and figuratively. Maybe we showed that even in “The Vagina Monologues” genitalia isn’t all that important.

– Drew Philp is an LSA junior and a staff reporter for The Michigan Daily

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