Me Too Monologues continue to challenge culture of perfectionism

The speakers in last year's Me Too Monologues. This year's program begins Wednesday, Feb. 7 and runs for four shows.
The speakers in last year's Me Too Monologues. This year's program begins Wednesday, Feb. 7 and runs for four shows.

This campus is full of stories. Everyone is walking around with one – sad, happy, funny, scary, angry, contemplative. But it’s so hard for us to give that story a voice, for we walk around asking questions like “How are you doing?” and “What’s your major?” instead of “What’s your story?” Even with our close friends and loved ones, how often do we actually feel comfortable answering “Actually, I’m not fine”?

Now, those untold stories and unheard voices will finally have an opportunity to present themselves at Me Too Monologues, which will be held during the following two weekends — Feb. 7 to 9 and 16 to 18 — in the Nelson Music Room. 

Inspired by her Common Ground retreat experience, Priyanka Chaurasia, Trinity ’10, wanted to bring Duke students’ stories about their various identities to more people on campus, since not everyone participates in the retreat. In 2009, Chaurasia decided to create a platform for these stories, which has come to be known as Me Too Monologues. The annual show involves the performance of monologues written and anonymously submitted by students, and features topics that range from race, gender and sexuality to mental health, religion and culture.

“The anonymous nature of the show lets us have those discussions and use other people’s experiences in order to have more difficult conversations with people around us, and also reminds us that there are people going through either similar things that we are, or vastly different things than we are,” said senior Samantha Meyers, the director of this year’s Me Too Monologues production. “And the hope is … that it fosters more a sense of empathy amongst everybody in this community … that we give each other less of a hard time about not having it all together every second every day.”

Every year, Me Too Monologues receives around 60 to 80 submissions, from which they choose 15 to 20 representative voices. This year’s show will feature 18 monologues in total. Though the program doesn’t have space to perform every single monologue submitted, Me Too Monologues has a podcast platform where they read the pieces that didn’t have a chance to be brought to stage. To further compensate for that this year, the actors will perform a piece that borrows one line from each submission at the beginning and end of every show. What is also interesting this year is that the recent national spotlight on sexual violence and gender equality has been reflected in the submissions, since several pieces are written by female survivors of sexual violence. Another trend is a shift to focus on intersectionality instead of single perspectives.

Me Too Monologues always strives to pay particular attention to the marginalized voices that otherwise would not have been easily heard on campus for fear of being hurt or judged. Since its founding, the show has become a campus favorite within the student body and developed a reputation for being extremely intimate, relatable and touching. In fact, its popularity can even compete with Duke Basketball, as students would camp outside East Duke to line up early for the show.

“I think the power of Me Too is inherent in the title – that you go to a show, and you realize that, even if it’s just a phrase or a sentiment, you are somehow connecting to so many stories that you didn’t think you would have anything in common with…it makes you feel more connected to the people around you,” senior and co-executive producer Sonali Biswas said.

Some students interviewed in West Union just heard from friends that Me Too Monologues is a great show and definitely worth going, while others appreciate it as a communal space for emotional healing.

“It’s just kind of the fact that when you walk into the room for performance, it’s a two-hour break from the craziness day-to-day from running between classes and activities. Just a time to stop and reflect and really connect with the stories you are hearing,” said sophomore Adam Beskind, co-director of national expansion.

As an elite university, Duke inevitably falls victim to a culture of “effortless perfection,” in which weaknesses are considered unpresentable, and mistakes unforgivable. Perhaps this perfectionism is another reason why Me Too Monologues resonates with so many students. However, despite the stigma around revealing weaknesses, we should be proud that Duke is where Me Too Monologues was originally founded and is now encouraging more colleges to adopt its concept and join the conversation.

So what’s your story? Do you feel the struggle of being a young adult and finding yourself? Do you feel lost, confused or frustrated sometimes? Yeah. Me too.


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