The director and cast of “The Vagina Monologues” from left: Mahabanoo Mody-Kotwal, Deborah Mack, Mary Stanford, LeTrell Simpson, Elizabeth Burnette, Haley Bower, Ann Nixon, Nairika Kotwal Cornett, Ginny Early, Stacey Dickson, Jill Mansfield and Lydia Sartain. (Nick Bowman for Brenau University)
The director and cast of “The Vagina Monologues” from left: Mahabanoo Mody-Kotwal, Deborah Mack, Mary Stanford, LeTrell Simpson, Elizabeth Burnette, Haley Bower, Ann Nixon, Nairika Kotwal Cornett, Ginny Early, Stacey Dickson, Jill Mansfield and Lydia Sartain. (Nick Bowman for Brenau University)

Alumnae, trustees perform in production of ‘The Vagina Monologues’

Aug. 16, 2019
Kristen Bowman
“The Vagina Monologues” was performed in Gainesville on Aug. 10, 2019, at Pearce Auditorium on the historic Gainesville campus. Brenau alumna Nairika Kotwal Cornett organized the production as part of her charitable fundraising for the 2019 Dancing for a Cause. (Nick Bowman for Brenau University)

“The Vagina Monologues” was performed in Gainesville on Aug. 10, 2019, at Pearce Auditorium on the historic Gainesville campus. Brenau alumna Nairika Kotwal Cornett organized the production as part of her charitable fundraising for the 2019 Dancing for a Cause. (Nick Bowman for Brenau University)

A packed Pearce Auditorium shook with laughter and cheers as Brenau University alumna Nairika Kotwal Cornett talked about the meaning — and lack thereof — of her short skirt.

Cornett was one of the stars of The Vagina Monologues, a powerful play about women and their bodies, relationships and experiences. The play was performed in Gainesville on Saturday, Aug. 10, in Pearce Auditorium on the historic Gainesville campus. The cast included several Brenau women, including Cornett, alumna and trustee Jill Mansfield, trustee Lydia Sartain and alumna Haley Bower.

Other cast members included notable women from Gainesville and Hall County, including Elizabeth Burnette, Stacey Dickson, Ginny Early, Deborah Mack, Ann Nixon, LeTrell Simpson and Mary Stanford.

Cornett organized the production as part of her fundraising for the 2019 Dancing for a Cause Hall County. Cornett said she was invited to participate in Dancing for a Cause last winter, and she jumped at the opportunity to combine two of her favorite things: art and community.

“What better way to fundraise for the charities involved, Rape Response, Alliance for Literacy and Center Point, than to do something this meaningful?” Cornett said. “I started with a list of about 15 well-known women in this community, hoping that just maybe two would have the courage to stand up here with me and do this. Clearly, I was wrong.”

Cornett said all 12 of the women on stage needed no convincing, starting with her very first call to Mansfield.

“I hadn’t even finished the sentence before she said, ‘I’m with you. Let’s do this,’” Cornett said.

Two audience members stand as “The Vagina Monologues” cast member Ginny Early asks any victims of violence to stand in solidarity as she reads a monologue about sexual violence during the performance in Gainesville on Aug. 10, 2019, at Pearce Auditorium on the historic Gainesville campus. (Nick Bowman for Brenau University)

Two audience members stand as “The Vagina Monologues” cast member Ginny Early asks any victims of violence to stand in solidarity as she reads a monologue about sexual violence during the performance in Gainesville on Aug. 10, 2019, at Pearce Auditorium on the historic Gainesville campus. (Nick Bowman for Brenau University)

The play was directed by Cornett’s mother, Mahabanoo Mody-Kotwal, who has produced, directed and appeared in the play for the past 15 years in her home of Mumbai, India.

The Vagina Monologues is an award-winning play by Eve Ensler that, according to the playwright’s website, introduces a divergent group of female voices, including a 6-year-old girl, a survivor of rape, a vagina workshop participant — hilariously recited by Bower — and a feminist happy to have found a man who “liked to look at it” — performed to raucous laughter by Mansfield. The monologues were written by Ensler following discussions she had with hundreds of women about their views on relationships, their bodies and violence against women.

Some slight modifications were made by the participants to personalize the show, including the monologue by well-known family law attorney Sartain, who claimed to be a lawyer-turned sex worker during her portion.

Themes ranged widely from hilarious discussions of the many words for the female sex organ — performed by Dickson — to powerful and poignant stories of rape, assault and genital mutilation. During one monologue, Early asked any victims of violence in the audience to stand as she recited a monologue about a rape victim. Dozens in the theater stood.

The Vagina Monologues has been translated into over 48 languages and performed in over 140 countries. It was not the first time the production was performed at Brenau, or even in Pearce Auditorium. A faculty, staff and student-starring production was performed in years prior, according to professor Heather Hollimon. Cornett brought the show back to Gainesville after several years, and the university donated the use of Pearce Auditorium for the performance.

“We’re so thankful to Brenau and excited it’s come (back) to Gainesville,” Bower said. “It’s time.”

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