Behind the scenes at last weekend’s Vagina Monologues was the show’s producer Ariana Martino. Wearing a hat with the signature red V, Ariana talked about VagMons and their role on Penn’s campus.

Hometown: Mooresville, North Carolina 

Major: Physics 

Activities: Vagina Monologues, Zeta Tau Alpha, University Honor Council, Osiris

Street: How did you first get involved with The Vagina Monologues?

Ariana Martino: I have never been much of a performer. I did performing arts tech for a while, and I really liked that. That was my “in” in the performing arts community, and I had a lot of friends that were involved in VagMons that suggested that I would like it. So I joined, and I was like, “This is definitely a very worthwhile use of my time.”

Street: What’s the hardest part of producing VagMons?

AM: I would say the scale of it can be stressful because it’s such a large auditorium. Like, when you start out the year and you have no tickets sold, you know it’s going to come together but it doesn’t necessarily feel like it’s going to come together. So much of it gets done in the last couple weeks up until the show, especially in terms of donations and ticket sales. Knowing that you have to be patient can be very difficult. 

Street: How does VagMons balance sensitivity and inclusion while confronting issues head–on?

AM: That’s definitely a challenge every year. One thing that I think a lot of people who aren’t involved with VagMons don’t realize per se is that we don’t have much control over the script. The script is decided every year by V–Day International and then disseminated. It’s approximately the same every year but they add several monologues every once in a while, particularly when they feel like there’s issues that haven’t been sufficiently expressed by the existing monologues. They’ll move some around or update them slightly. 

Street: Did anything change for this year?

AM: This year, they did a pretty substantial change, which hasn’t been like anything I’ve seen in the past. Typically there’s a spotlight monologue, where it’s one monologue that’s only performed in one year. And it’s related to a particular theme of the year. So, last year, the theme was workplace violence, whereas this year, in place of doing a spotlight monologue, they gave us a little bit more flexibility. The theme was more generally activism and local activism. They invited us to find local activists who wanted to come speak or present something they had written themselves. We’re bringing in a member of our movement who performed last year. Her name is Marissa McCool, and she is a trans activist and poet, and she is going to be performing an original piece called “Ode to the Blocked” which is about people that she’s had to block on social media for various reasons.

Street: Is there anything you wish you could change about The Vagina Monologues?

AM: I do wish sometimes that there were more flexibility for more students to be able to write their own content. We definitely had more flexibility than ever with being able to bring in local activists, but more so I’d be interested to hear how people who aren’t necessarily involved with the movement, or who are, but maybe not in a leadership role, feel like their experiences aren’t being represented in the show. And maybe write something of their own that we could be able to perform. We actually have been toying with the idea of having a few smaller follow up events where people can present more original content. 

Street: What is the goal of VagMons at Penn?

AM: One of the things that I really love about VagMons is that it’s a time where a lot people go out of their way to think about these issues that they wouldn’t necessarily have on their calendars each year. It’s a show that reaches a lot of people and it starts a lot of conversations around the time when it’s performed. But I think culture in general can’t change until it’s not just the people who are putting on these shows that are having these conversations all year long. It needs to be everyone having these conversations all year long.

Street: Do you think that the current cultural reckoning about sexual harassment and violence has affected this year’s Vagina Monologues?

AM: We’re definitely mindful of the fact that this is more at the forefront of people’s minds than it might have been in previous years. But I think that the more important takeaway is that this is the show’s 20th anniversary. It’s two decades old, so it’s not like any of this “news” is particularly new. The stories have always been out there, it’s just a matter of listening to them.

Lightning Round:

The best part about Penn is... Philadelphia

The worst part about Penn is… The rain!

Favorite food on campus is... Tacos at Distrito

If you could have a five–minute conversation with Amy G, it would be about… Sexual violence policies.

There are two types of people at Penn… People who show up to the GBM and people who show up to the BYO.

Did you prepare that answer? My roommate actually asked me when I told her I had this interview and I was like, I don’t know!