SAN ANSELMO, Calif.

What started as a conversation between four students at San Francisco Theological Seminary has turned into a production aiming to bring down barriers and give a voice to from all walks of life.

On March 9-10, 15 female SFTS students, staff and faculty will perform “The Vagina Monologues.” Based on Eve Ensler’s original production, the monologues seek to empower and celebrate women and their bodies, which are often the targets of violence, rape and oppression.

Rachel Pence, a second year Masters in Divinity student, helped organize last year’s event and will perform this year. After noticing that “The Vagina Monologues” weren’t performed at seminaries as often as they are on college campuses, Pence and her classmates decided to stage a production at SFTS.

“There is no better place than to bring this voice into the church, especially since the church has been a place where women have not always been uplifted,” Pence said. “And at times, the church has been the source for the oppression against women. We want to change that.”

Many people don’t know what the production is about and were hesitant to participate last year. But the enthusiasm of the performers soon caught on, as did the shared hope of the participants.

“It was our shared feeling of empowerment that I felt not only in the dressing room and during our dress rehearsals, but also on the stage,” Pence said. “And it’s our hope that we will again be able to have this shared feeling of empowerment radiate out to others because it’s definitely radiating within us.”

Marissa Danney, a second year Masters in Divinity student, said the monologues seek to raise awareness about things many women experience on a daily basis. 

“I think in a lot of ways, “The Vagina Monologues” helps people realize the voices which have been silenced,” Danney said.

“Sometimes parts of the performance can be uncomfortable, but it helps people realize they just haven’t heard these certain voices before. And it’s by hearing these voices that not only helps others change their own behavior and how they interact with women in the world, but it also helps them to support these voices which aren’t being heard.” 

The production has also received a lot of support from the seminary community. Not only did new SFTS President Jim McDonald mention the production in his inauguration address last month, but faculty and staff are also performing in the monologues.

Pence said her greatest hope for the production this year is to put down roots with this new performance.

“This is something that needs to be done, especially in seminaries,” she said. “Not all seminaries feel comfortable with it, but it’s something that SFTS has proven to stand behind, so I hope it will stand hold on its own and will really take off.” 

To learn more about the SFTS production of “The Vagina Monologues,” click here.

Christopher L. Schilling is a senior student at San Francisco Theological Seminary and a free-lance writer.