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AotA highlights gender at Duke

Primal yells and bursts of laughter emanate from the room where the women of All of the Above rehearse, emphasizing the show's dynamic mix of the poignant and the humorous.

All of the Above features a set of anonymously authored monologues written and performed by Duke women. Initially created in 2003 in the wake of the Women's Initiative, the monologues offer vibrant and variant reflections of the female Duke experience.

Now entering its seventh year, the performance strives to construct a radically different mood than its predecessors. The changes in the show reflect the collaborative efforts of its four directors, seniors Babylonia Aivaz, Melissa Wiesner, Sarah Sham and Angela McCrory.

"This year's vision is to be a lot more subversive, with a lot more social commentary than before," Aivaz said. "In the past, I feel like it's been a lot of 'victim theater.'"

The current production is also the first to make the monologues completely anonymous-previously, writers seeking acknowledgement could be mentioned in the program. Emily Klein, professor of geology in the Nicholas School and co-director of the Baldwin Scholars program, said this anonymity further enables the boundary-breaking commentary that has come to characterize the show.

"It is daring, candid and empowering," Klein said. "Because it's anonymous, it gives them an outlet to write about painful or naughty or profound experiences."

The greater authorial ambiguity also effects how the audience receives the show, Wiesner said. She hopes spectators are compelled to attribute the works to a larger female experience instead of a specific person.

"What we don't want is for this to become a process of elimination where people come just to hear other peoples' dirt and then do a scavenger hunt to figure out who's who," Wiesner said. "That's the opposite of what we want. We want to show the universality of these experiences."

One aim of the monologues is to deconstruct the actresses' own stereotypes of Duke women, said senior Kelsey Koenig, who is performing one of the works.

"I was having trouble not judging my person," Koenig said. "What's important about my character is that it breaks open presumptions about people you see every day."

Despite the female-oriented nature of the submissions, the work is relevant to a much larger co-ed audience, Sham said.

"It's amazing for [men] because they get to see this entire world of women that they have no idea existed," she said. "I know a lot of men on this campus assume that women are crazy and complicated and they don't understand why. This show always seems to be a really good way for them to be like, 'That's why she was so angry at me when I thought she had no reason to be.'"

Sham adds that the show is not intended to provide women with a safe space for male-bashing.

"Men shouldn't be scared off at all," she said. "It's not like angry women screaming at them for being douches or something."

All of the Above will be performed Thursday though Saturday at 7:30 p.m. in the Nelson Music Room. Tickets are free and available on the West Campus Plaza or at the door. South African Constitutional Court Justice Yvonne Mokgoro will lead a panel discussion after Saturday's show.


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