Recently a group of Augsburg students staged two performances of The Vagina Monologues, Eve Ensler’s episodic play which began off-Broadway and has spawned V-Day, a global movement to stop violence against women and girls. This year’s production raised more than $800 to benefit the House of Sharing, an organization in Seoul, South Korea that houses and cares for the surviving “comfort women,” young Korean women who were forced into sexual slavery by the Japanese military during WWII.
Augsburg senior Krystal Mattison is the granddaughter of a comfort woman. After spending time with this group of women during her year in Korea, she came back to Augsburg committed to raising awareness about this issue. Her own grandmother (halmoni) died when Mattison was five years old, but she learned of her grandmother’s story from her father.
The women at House of Sharing [pictured] became grandmothers to Mattison, who was called Soo-Jeong by her new halmonis. “They spoiled me and always held my hand and even fed me,” she says. She learned from the women, who think of themselves not as victims but as survivors and activists, that speaking out against violence is an important part of the healing process. “This experience brought me so much completion that I had to do something,” Mattison says.
That “something” was to work with Augsburg’s Women’s Resource Center. After Mattison shared her grandmother’s story and her own experience in Korea, the Center agreed to donate the proceeds from this year’s production to House of Sharing.
“Since the purpose of performing this show is to fight violence against women by raising awareness about the issue and funds for organizations who do this work, we feel like it was a tremendously successful event,” says Jessica Nathanson, a professor of women’s studies and director of the Women’s Resurce Center. “The performances were also excellent,” she adds, “beautifully and powerfully delivered.”
Augsburg’s production of The Vagina Monologues was directed by Julia Sewel, a senior psychology major from Minneapolis. Sewell says she has been acting since she was five years old and studied theater at her previous college. She became connected to the Augsburg Women’s Resource Center and was nominated to be the director of the production.
Sewell said directing the production taught her that she will never be a director. “But I learned so much as an actor,” she says. “It was an awesome process to get the actors to â€˜go there’ and take their performances to the next level.” She gives credit to the actors, many of whom had never acted before, for creating such a powerful performance.
The Vagina Monologues cast included Irene Abdullah, Veronica Berg, Kia Burton, Amber Davis, Rebecca Dickinson, Sarah Gillund, Annika Gunderson, Lucreshia Grant, Elizabeth Hanson, Brandy Hyatt, Valencia McMurray, Lily Morris, Kris Ness, Magdalen Ng, Shannon O’Brien, Yasameen Sajady, Leann Vice-Reshel, Rochelle Weidner, and Courtney Wiley.