Behind The Scenes: A Talk with the Directors of Me Too Monol...

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True Blue | Catherine York | February 4, 2016

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What: Me Too Monologues

Where: Nelson Music, East Duke Building, East Campus

When: Thursday, Feb. 4, 7:30

Friday, Feb. 5, 7:30

Friday, Feb. 12, 7:30

Saturday, Feb. 13, 7:30

Sunday, Feb. 14, 3:00

Why: First 30 people at each performance get a free Me Too Monologues shirt AND a special bonus of becoming less socially ignorant

Imagine your greatest insecurities or your biggest fears. Who have you shared that with? Maybe your family or your best friends. Maybe you have a diary or talk to your cat. Would you have the courage to put those insecurities or fears onto paper and share it with the entire Duke community? That is what the writers, cast, and production team of Me Too Monologues do. While anonymous, it takes a tremendous amount of courage to share often extremely personal stories to have them be performed by a stranger on stage.

Unless you’re a freshman (or don’t have a Facebook), you’re probably familiar with the idea of Me Too Monologues – the annual show written, directed, performed, and produced by Duke students about Duke students. Started in 2009 by a Duke student inspired by the diversity immersion retreat Common Ground, the original purpose of the production was to use testimonial theater as a platform to bring stories of underrepresented students into the spotlight. It’s not only all over every social media newsfeed but has begun to be considered by many as a necessary part of the “Duke experience.”

These are all things we already knew about Me Too Monologues. I sat down with this year’s directors to try to learn a few new things about the 2016 show. Junior Lauren Rosen and senior Phil McClure (due to some peer-pressuring from Lauren he likes to call “encouragement”) co-direct the show.

Me Too received over 60 monologue submissions this year, all of incredible quality as emphasized by both Lauren and Phil. This makes the process of choosing which stories make the stage is, according to Phil, a “gut-wrenching” process.

“It’s hard. Because we get beautiful, beautiful stories. It doesn’t feel like letting go of stories, it feels like letting go of people,” said Lauren.

More is considered than just the individual story. A variety of topics have to be represented as well as a range of perspectives, tone, and style. And then after that, the actors have to be taken into consideration.

Choosing the pieces is a very sensitive task. After last year’s show, Me Too received some backlash (backlash seems to be the new thing at Duke – and by new, I mean has always been there and will always be there forever and for everything) about the topics it did and did not cover. As a show that is labeled as representing Duke minorities, some people felt that it was focusing on voices that already had a strong presence on campus.

“Me Too Monologues is one of those things where it’s so personal that people are bound to disagree with something. I think it’s whether or not an aspect of their identity that is very important to them- and that they value very heavily – is represented in the show,” said Phil.

The directors pointed out that while they are always open to and encourage criticism, whether positive or negative, Me Too Monologues is only a function of who submits pieces.

“If 25% of your submissions are about a certain issue, you have to represent that huge chunk because if so many students feel so strongly about a certain thing, we want this to be an accurate representation of what is going on at Duke,” said Lauren.

That being said, the Me Too Monologues team has taken last year’s criticism seriously while working on this year’s production.

I’d say it was a balance between going back to our roots and starting fresh this year. I think we just tried to make sure we were putting individual stories first, no agenda,” said Lauren.

I mean, no pressure, right? Just try to make everyone at Duke happy.

So what can we expect from this year’s show (besides two very exhausted directors)?

According to Phil, “This year is heavy on the resonance but potentially light on lightness.” Many of the pieces this year are heavy and challenging. Even more significant, a lot of them are founded in Duke issues, which is a spirit very indicative of the happenings on campus the past few semesters.

“We’re going to challenge Duke. But we’re going to challenge the audience as well,” Lauren said. “The idea of ‘oh, I’ve never thought about it that way’ is such a powerful idea.”

That’s what Me Too Monologues is about. So come prepared with all your emotions (tears and laughter are suggested but not demanded).

Finally: the question we’ve all been waiting for.

How long do I have to wait in line to get in?

*cue exasperated sighs from Phil and Lauren and a rant about how Duke students “love to wait in lines” (examples include but are not limited to ABP, buses, the box office, Cameron)

The official answer is that it is suggested to arrive less than 7 hours before show time and more than 30 minutes before. Just remember you heard it here first.

 

 

If this isn’t a good enough answer for you, I encourage you to track down Lauren and Phil and try to drag a better answer out of them because I was unsuccessful in doing so myself. However, it was promised that if students come to a show and don’t get in, they will be given a pass to come to a different show. The idea is that everyone will be able to have seen the performance by the end of the two weekends of running time.

*tenting is encouraged but not required