More than just monologues'Tis the season to be reflective. Me Too Monologues—one of Duke’s most popular events is back and now spans two full weekends of heartfelt storytelling and stirring performances. For those unfamiliar with the event, Duke students from all backgrounds anonymously submit stories documenting struggles of self-discovery and identity. The stories are performed by student volunteers in front of a live audience. Originally focused largely on issues of race, the monologues have expanded significantly, including—but not limiting itself to—issues of sexuality, gender, class, social justice and the like. All are designed to promote mutual respect and tolerance for personal differences.
Over the past few years, and in its first weekend this semester, the show has drawn massive crowds—many wait in line for hours to attend. We attribute the show’s popularity to a number of factors. The hype, both on campus and online, undoubtedly plays a role. But students are also drawn to the monologues themselves – stories that can vary from genuinely compelling and heart-wrenching to laugh-out-loud funny. These stories humanize the students and make real and immediate the problems of personal identity so often deliberated in our hallowed halls. These problems are brought to life through the talent of the performers. The veil of anonymity behind which students submit their stories gives many the courage to describe what they otherwise could not—reminding us that, every day, people wrestle with problems that often go undiscussed.
In addition to offering students a creative outlet, which this University desperately needs, Me Too Monologues provides Duke with a valuable service. It promotes campus-wide discussion about significant issues and invites introspection at an individual level. The performances are complemented by a week of panel discussions on the subjects they raise, providing further opportunities for intellectual engagement. The stories relate the experiences of actual Duke students—our friends and classmates. Because the monologues are so personal, they allow us to identify with their authors and, in doing so, bring Duke closer together as a community. There monologues have also had tangible positive benefits, like last year’s campaign to finance a student’s visit to a dying relative. Overall, the event contributes greatly to the intellectual vibrancy of our university.
Yet, despite the lines of eager students, we worry that those who would be most challenged by the monologues are precisely those who do not attend. The self-selection that characterizes this kind of event means that many are left out of the discussion—a disappointing prospect, given how much students from all backgrounds stand to benefit from the monologues. Self-selection is a difficult issue to solve, and this year’s advertising has been comprehensive. Future marketing campaigns could, however, target populations not likely to have heard about the show. Even though it seems like most people know about the monologues, each year some students fall through the cracks. More advertising might remedy this, even if it seems excessive.
We commend Me Too Monologue’s expansion over the last few years and the steps it has taken to accommodate the large crowds it draws. We encourage everyone to attend this weekend. These are stories worth hearing.