A production of “The Vagina Monologues” at the Power Center this weekend will include men as extras, even though doing so violates the playwright’s condition that no men appear on stage during the play.
The play’s director, LSA junior Leanna Millan, says she has permission from the V-Day College Campaign, the national organization that oversees all college productions of the Vagina Monologues, a collection of monologues that address domestic violence and the empowerment of women.
The guidelines posted on the organization’s website read, “Men are invited to participate in College Campaign productions but not as actors. Men should be invited to get involved behind the scenes as well as to facilitate men’s discussion groups and other activities.”
Eve Ensler, who wrote the play, included the stipulation when she released the play’s rights at no cost to productions whose proceeds are given to charity.
The guidelines go on to say that if a production fails to abide by these conditions, the national campaign will rescind its approval.
Millan, though, is confident that this weekend’s production will take place.
“There is no fear the show will be pulled,” she said.
The national office of the V-Day College Campaign could not be reached for comment yesterday.
The men in the play will pose next to a speaker delivering a monologue as a point for the actress to address, according to a cast member who asked to remain anonymous because she feared she would be cut from the production for talking to the press.
Millan confirmed that three men will appear in the monologue “Angry Vagina” in the first half of the play.
Millan said that because men are being discussed in the monologue, their presence on stage only “gives them a face.”
She described the men’s role in the play as “nothing but props.”
As a condition from the national campaign, the men will not have a speaking role, Millan said. She refused to say whether men will appear elsewhere in the play.
Millan said she chose to include men to represent patriarchal institutions and also to show that men can be feminists.
She stressed that the men will represent both positive and negative relationships in the women’s lives.
At first, though, Millan considered having a man deliver one of the monologues.
Cast members were first approached with the idea two to three weeks into rehearsal in January.
Millan said reaction was mixed.
About four weeks later, Millan and assistant director Nicole Avant told the cast they had decided to only use men as extras in the production.
The cast member said Millan and Avant told the cast it was a directorial decision.
“It was a huge shift in the amount of male involvement in the onstage production,” the cast member said.
The V-Day College Campaign contacted Millan in January after rehearsals had begun about the inclusion of men in the play. But Millan said she and Avant had already decided not to cast a man in a monologue.
Millan said she hadn’t discussed the idea with the national organization before that point.
Millan said she ultimately chose to not cast a man in the production because of the cast’s feedback, not the threat that the national organization would pull the play. She said that was a factor in her decision, though.
Millan said she did not want to risk having the play – a fundraiser for SAFEHouse, an Ann Arbor women’s shelter – canceled.
“The last thing I want to do is cheapen my production or cheapen the women,” Millan said.
The Vagina Monologues
Sunday at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.