Take a moment and think about your biggest fear. Your biggest regret. Your biggest mistake. Think about something that damaged you; that made you feel broken. For just a moment, re-live the emotion you felt.
Sometimes digging deep within our souls and reaching for our darkest moments can be frightening. But it can also be liberating. For Milana Meytes ’15, a senior and current director of this year’s Restripped/Wheaton Words production, liberation is exactly what she found. This is her story.
“The second semester of my freshman year, I really needed something. I heard about the Vagina Monologues and thought that it would be a nice, cathartic experience. So, I tried out. They picked me for a monologue about the Yugoslavian War in the ‘90s, which focused on rape, because they looked at me and saw that I needed this experience,” said Meytes.
“Because they gave me a chance to be a part of the Vagina Monologues, I was really impacted. Not only did it build a community of friends that I have to this day but it also created a safe space for women to air their dirty laundry on this campus and talk about stories that you can’t really talk about in any other setting.The cast was so varied that it was remarkable that we were all so vulnerable with each other.”
In the following year, Lana Rosen ’13 came up with a new concept called Stripped. Stripped differentiated itself from the Vagina Monologues by not only incorporating the male perspective on campus but also using the real stories that students wrote.
“We wanted to incorporate stories loosely based on sexuality that could be in any form, such as poetry, monologues, dialogues, etc. That year, we also had Dean Denyse Wilhelm perform in Stripped. She did a piece about domestic violence. In her masters thesis, she collected a lot of material on domestic violence. At the time, she was going through a divorce and dealt with the same stuff herself. She had so many materials and articles from all across the world that her piece was not only talking about her own experience, but also the experiences of victims all across the world, in which she symbolically threw these articles across the stage,” she explained.
Stripped is for anyone who wishes to tell their story or be the voice for someone who cannot. One piece that year focused on abortion while another centered on a gay son. Milana, as both the producer and a performer, wrote on a piece about a failed relationship. This show marked a new beginning for the Wheaton Community, for “it was the first time there were males and females talking about these issues, being so vulnerable on stage with each other, completely not from the same friend groups, and sharing their own words in their pieces.”
The feedback the cast received from Stripped from the Wheaton Community was amazing. For all three nights, the production was sold out. “People were amazed that these were real stories,” Milana stated, “Unless they were anonymous, the person performing it was literally leaving a piece of themself on the stage. The rehearsals, the bonding, and the safe space became just as important as the end product of the final show.”
Last year, a new production called Wheaton Words, which was based off of the same ideas as Stripped, was conducted. Milana was happy to state that the cast was even more diverse and involved a lot of underclassmen and new faces that became great friends.
For her senior year, Milana hopes to inspire this campus once again. “I want to build a safe place for people to talk about what goes on behind closed doors at Wheaton, at home, with their significant other, with sexuality, their past experience with love or abuse or abortion. When we compose a new cast, I always kept in mind that the reason I was first chosen for the Vagina Monologues my freshman year was not because I was a performer, but because the producers and directors saw in me that I needed this. And so, that’s what I hope to bring to the table this year with the tenatively titled Restripped/Wheaton Words 2015. It is really important that males get involved. I would love for males that wouldn’t stereotypically do this type of thing to get involved. I want to compose a cast that combines all grades, genders, ethnicities, backgrounds and transcend those boundaries here at Wheaton.”
As Milana stated “how you change the world is you do it where you’re at first. In the miniscule sense, this changes our world by changing our community. It brings us together. I hope to pass this on. I hope I’m not the last person to do this. I hope the audience will feel how affected we are by these stories.”
If you want to get involved, please do not hesitate! Sept. 27th marks the date for open submissions! Please send your work of any medium to firstname.lastname@example.org. Anonymous submissions are welcomed. This year’s show will take place in the spring. For further questions, contact Milana Meytes!