"Regina Monologues" criticized for lacking blasphemy, profanity
Notre Dame, IN. February 27, 2002
The University of Notre Dame cancelled the remaining performances of a controversial new play after its opening weekend. The Regina Monologues, a play which depicted the life of Mary in a series of vignettes, was shut down after an unruly crowd blocked the entrance to Washington Hall before the show's third performance. The play drew protests because it was seen by many in the Notre Dame community as a reactionary backlash against the pro-female perspectives of The Vagina Monologues, recently produced by the University's theater department. The Regina Monologues was an independent student production.
A University spokesman said the decision to cancel the rest of the show performances was made in the interest of public safety, "and to avoid the appearance of being too pro-Mary."
"Where's my cunt?"
The Regina Monologues has been at the center of a storm of criticism because it's reverential portrayal of the Virgin Mary contained neither profanity, nor blasphemy.
"How can we begin to have a dialogue about the relevance of Mary today without a discussion of vaginas?" asked Vanessa McCrory, a sophomore American Studies major.
As the crowd swelled, several dozen Vagina enthusiasts linked arms and chanted, "Where's my cunt? Where's my cunt?" Several women felt threatened that, only a week after "reclaiming cunt" while attending The Vagina Monologues, their cunts might be taken away.
"Without 'cunt,' we're left with 'pussy,' 'twat,' 'coochie,' 'trim,' and whatever else they call it on The Man Show," objected senior Ashleigh Oliver.
Her roommate, Vicki Castellano, agreed adding, "The Vagina Monologues made me feel good about being promiscuous. Now this comes along and lays this Blessed Virgin guilt trip on me."
The protest turned ugly when a busload of St. Mary's students arrived and, a little slow on the uptake, started chanting, "Between your legs!" Suddenly, someone threw an empty Slim Fast can. That was met with fusillade of Dasani bottles. Campus police moved in quickly before any actual hair-pulling took place, and order was restored. The performance of The Regina Monologues was cancelled shortly afterward.
Silent vaginas are vulnerable vaginas.
Kaitlin Powers and Michael Shays, who co-produced the play were saddened by the incident. "It was a precipitous decision," said Powers. "Mary's story should be heard. It's the Gospel through a mother's eyes."
Added Shays, "It's inevitable that a frank depiction of devotion, grace, mystery, and sacrifice would be profoundly offensive to some sensibilities. That's why we had to produce it ourselves. The theater department wouldn't touch it."
The chairperson of the Notre Dame theater department said the University refused to sponsor the play because it was "fact-based and derivative." He also added, "Notre Dame sponsoring a positive portrayal of Mary seems a little too rah-rah. There's no edge to it."
Some students complained that Shays, a male, should not have been allowed to co-produce a play that told a story from a woman's point of view. Shays defended his participation in the project. "Look, I may not be a woman, but I know all about virginity," said the senior Zahm Hall resident.
Megan Sullivan, who portrayed Mary in the play, defended the work. "It's a Biblically inspired story of faith, service, humility, loss, and redemption, told from the perspective of the Blessed Mother. It's inspirational. When I read the script, I wept."
Critics of The Regina Monologues were far less generous. Louise Dietrich, Chairperson of the Women's Studies program at Valparaiso University blasted the play, "The Regina Monologues doesn't even discuss vaginas. Notre Dame, in effect, is putting a gag on vaginas. Silent vaginas are vulnerable vaginas."
The point was amplified by Maggie Peltz, a graduate student in philosophy. "The Regina Monologues does women a terrible disservice by not confronting rape. And by not confronting rape, it implicitly condones rape." Warming to the topic, Ms. Peltz, a veteran of several "Take Back the Night" rallies, went on to describe the Immaculate Conception as a "Divine violation."
Adjunct professor Marla Hoyt, who teaches a course on feminine histrionics stopped short of characterizing the Immaculate Conception as rape, but charged instead that it was a clear case of sexual harassment. "Think of the inequity of the power relationship. He's the Creator of the Universe---the Author of All. She's just an impressionable teenager, probably suffering from an eating disorder. Who is she to say no to a come-on from the Almighty?"
Others questioned whether Mary was an appropriate role model for today's young women. Saint Mary's junior, Melissa Escrow, dismissed the play's portrayal of Mary saying, "This 'handmaiden of the Lord' stuff is awfully submissive. She's buying into the hegemony of the patriarchy. She has, like, zero girl power."
As Senior PLS major Sonni Larroquette put it, "The Regina Monologues fails to substitute a cunni-centric discourse for the prevailing phallo-centric discourse. That's an affront to all women."
First Year student Sara Elizabeth Nutale who attended both productions said she preferred The Vagina Monologues, saying it left her feeling "shocked, challenged, and a little horny." By contrast she found The Regina Monologues to be "inaccessible and remote."
Added the perky, concupiscent freshperson, "Every woman has a vagina and can masturbate. Not every woman can be the Queen of Heaven."
The play was savaged on an artistic level as well. Visiting lecturer and renowned art critic Ivan Toff attended the opening performance of The Regina Monologues. He was underwhelmed. "The depiction of Mary contains no feces," complained Toff, "and no bodily fluids whatsoever!"
Toff compared the humble, faithful Mary of The Regina Monologues to the "more authentic" Mentsruating Mary, a sculpture by celebrated transgressive, trans-media, transsexual artist, Alexandre Poseur. Poseur's composition which employs molded, cured dog vomit, "captures the essence of Mary as Divine Bitch," stated Toff. The sculpture depicts a nude, suggestively posed Mary, spattered with the menstrual blood of exploited Guatemalan women who worked on the new line of Kathy Lee Gifford summer wear. "An emblem of Mary's status as a victim of oppression," explained Toff. "Compared to such a profound work, The Regina Monologues' representations of Assumption and Glorification left me empty and depressed."
Alternative narratives for Mary
The Regina Monologues received criticism from other quarters, as well. Hetta Rankbachs, president of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance at Notre Dame (GLAND) expressed disappointment with the play's "narrow and conventional" portrayal of Mary. "For millennia women have been trapped by the Madonna-whore dichotomy. That's so confining. We need to find alternative narratives for Mary. What if there really is no Madonna? Let's imagine a trampy 15-year-old trapped with an unwanted pregnancy that she couldn't explain to her controlling, blue-collar fiancé. She could have been stoned to death! She'd have to come up with a heck of story, wouldn't she? I mean, The Regina Monologues won't even go there."
Ms. Rankbachs pushed her unkempt hair from her eyes and shifted her ample weight from one hemp-sandaled foot to the other before continuing, "What really disappoints me is that the play fails to explore the possibility that 'Jesus had two mommies.'"
Ms. Rankbachs went on to describe her theory that Christ's message of love, peace, and charity is too nurturing to have been the product of a repressive, male-dominated nuclear family. "Clearly the epicene, non-violent Savior was the product of a warm gyno-centric environment---what I call the 'cunt-cunt' pair bond'."
"Besides, Joseph appears to be a typical, absent step-father, consumed with his career and neglectful of his family," scolded Rankbachs. "But doesThe Regina Monologues explore any of this?…No!"
Asked to comment on the controversy, university president, Rev. Edward A. Malloy cautiously defended Notre Dame's decision to produce The Vagina Monologues, while distancing himself from the student-led production.
"A university is a place of open inquiry and exploration," explained Rev. Malloy. "And there is no better way of examining cherished beliefs than by traducing the traditions and institutions which form the foundation for those beliefs. For Ivy League schools, that means trashing Western civilization. For Notre Dame that means producing pornographic paeans to lesbianism and masturbation" such as The Vagina Monologues.
What about The Regina Monologues? "The play's refusal to desecrate an iconic figure like the Virgin Mary was a missed opportunity to further Christian inquiry," explained Rev. Malloy. "Ultimately, that's why it fails."
Although the controversial play should stir controversy for weeks as students and faculty continue the debate through several workshops, seminars, classroom discussions and personal introspection, some students managed to remain remarkably unfazed.
Junior finance major, John Brodsky, was one of the few male students who was in the midst of the melee in front of Washington Hall. Asked what he thought of the controversy, Brodsky shrugged and said, "I just like listening to chicks talk dirty."