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Me Too Monologues: Using theater for social change

Me Too Monologues
The Me Too Monologues will explore personal stories related to themes of gender. Photo by Jamie Cummings.

The Me Too Monologue production team held a workshop and planning session Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. to tackle what messages they want to present in their show. 

Me Too Monologues, which began at Duke University in 2009, have been produced at Chapel Hill for the past five years. Students may submit an anonymous monologue that is then performed, directed and designed by students for an audience.

“The format gives itself over really well to intimate events because it’s not coming from you, but it’s coming from a third party,” sophomore Michele Metzger, producer of Me Too for the Kenan Theatre Company, said.  “We want a lens on college from people who are in college.”

Although the Me Too Movement, which started in 2006 and was popularized in 2017 on Twitter, is about combating sexual assault, the name of the production is unrelated and pertains to a broader range of topics. 

Senior Ruthie Allen, one of four co-directors, said topics include mental health, identity, gender, sexuality, culture, cultural appropriation, race, sexual assault, administrations and self-image. 

“Directing this project is different than directing a typically structured theatrical piece, because it’s not one cohesive plot — we still have this large cast, and we still have something to say with these very short pieces," Allen said. "They all say something different but they all say something in unison as well." 

Jacqueline Lawton, a playwriting professor  who led the workshop Tuesday, said she believes this production is unique because of the relationship between the actors and writers. 

“What’s truly beautiful about these monologues is that they are written from truly personal, authentic, vulnerable experiences that are submitted anonymously — almost as though it was a diary entry,” Lawton said. “And now an actor who is trained to perform is turning this intimate story into a performance. It’s breathtaking to think about the transformation that happens in the rehearsal room.”

Last year, UNC students formed a partnership for the project with North Carolina Central University, which will continue this year. 

“The partnership with N.C. Central has breathed life into this project,” Allen said. “We assume that all college experiences are similar to the Tar Heel college experience, but that’s not at all true.”  

Lawton said she has enjoyed witnessing the partnership develop over the past two years. 

“It was phenomenal to see these two cultures come together and say ‘This is us,’” Lawton said. “We’re pushing this forward. No one else is going to filter this. This is about who we are and how we exist.” 

Lawton helped with a few of the workshops last year leading up to the production and said she wants to help advise students who want to share their personal story through monologue. 

Emily Jane MacKillop, a junior at UNC, worked on the technical end of the show last year and wrote a monologue. She said she plans to write again this year. 

“It’s kind of terrifying to watch your piece performed because it’s like ‘That’s not what I thought,’ but that’s always a way it can be thought about,” MacKillop said. “The Me Too Monologues are about making a personal story universal. My story isn’t just mine.”

This commonality in diverse backgrounds is a key factor that Lawton highlighted.

“When you’re telling a story that can be told from multiple points of view, you can say while we come from completely different worlds and have completely different experiences, there’s a central piece of humanity that connects us,” Lawton said.

Jared Bowen-Kauth, sophomore and assistant director, said he hopes the show forces audiences to open their minds to new experiences. 

The show will premiere Jan. 24 and 25 at UNC and Jan. 26 and 27 at N.C. Central with free admission. The performances will be followed by a “talk-back,” a post-show discussion which includes the audience and cast.  

“It’s not a really complex show where you have to find the theme," Bowen-Kauth said. "It’s just honest college students that you can relate to. This helps show the significance of theater for social change.”

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