After 19 years of Eve Ensler’s The Vagina Monologues, directors Mara Halpern and Daphne Eleftheriadou have transitioned this production at Berkeley High School to Our Monologues.
This powerful show features monologues written by Berkeley High students, and performed by the Our Monologues cast. In previous years, the cast has been all female-identifying students, but in an effort to include more voices and broaden narratives around gender, race, sexuality, and identity, the cast of Our Monologues is no longer confined to just one gender, accepting performers of every identity.
The monologues encompass a variety of unspoken issues such as mental health, gender identity, female societal pressures, sexual assault, and body image, and the actors do an amazing job of encapsulating the audience by portraying the rawness and urgency of these situations. From its inception, Halpern and Eleftheriadou had a few main goals that they knew they wanted to accomplish. They wanted to create a platform for stories that go untold, initiate a conversation evaluating what goes on around us, facilitate an inclusive and supportive space for their performers, and hold a space for the larger community to heal and grow.
In Spring of 2019, co-directors Halpern and Eleftheriadou opened up a place for students to submit their stories in the form of a monologue for the production, unsure of whether or not they would get enough responses to make this show really come to life. By the start of this school year, they had received over fifty powerfully moving pieces, and were able to start the process of the show. “Mara and I realized that it was actually going to happen because people were actually taking our show seriously, and submitting monologues. A big part of whether this was going to happen or not depended on whether people were going to give us their stories. So when we realized that people had faith in us to take their stories and use them in our show, that was the most impactful part of the process as a director,” said Eleftheriadou.
Many of the performers had written their own pieces that they either performed themselves or were performed by other members of the cast. One of these performers and writers is Amalia Sanchez, an Academy of Medicine and Public Service (AMPS) senior. Sanchez wrote and performed two monologues of the twenty in the show. She shared how the process of writing her story made her experience with the show all the more empowering, and the production all the more powerful in a way that was very different from The Vagina Monologues. “It was hard to believe that people at Berkeley High, people that I might see in the hallway, were writing stories that were so personal and private. And I’m sharing my own monologues, so just the fact that I’m putting that out there was probably the most important thing to me.”
Sanchez performed in last year’s production of The Vagina Monologues and admitted that she was skeptical at first about the transition, saying,“I think when I first found out that we were doing Our Monologues and it was going to all be written by students, I was kind of scared because Eve Ensler had years to write those monologues and perfect them, and even though they were problematic and did exclude a lot of voices, they were really beautiful. But when I read the new monologues I remember thinking: these are great, these are incredible.”
Watching Our Monologues is an empowering and eye-opening experience. You walk away feeling closer to your fellow students and gain a new understanding of your community that is unique to this show. The nature of the content of the show encourages the audience to evaluate themselves and their community, and challenges them to think about their own habits of inclusivity.
The cast delivers a stunning performance that leaves you in awe. This beautiful and powerful production is a must-see for all.
Disclaimer: Mara Halpern is an editor on the Jacket.