I am not a theatre person by any stretch of the imagination. I have terrible stage fright, I cannot memorize lines whatsoever, and once, I even threw up while giving a presentation in front of my high school class. So when my friend begged me to go to the kickoff meeting of Grinnell Monologues during my second year, I thought, “Okay, I’ll go to make her feel more comfortable about being there, but no way am I going to have any part in this performance nonsense.”
Grinnell Monologues, or GMons, as it is also affectionately known, is a student-run group on campus that writes and performs its own original monologues centering on themes of sex, sexuality, gender, relationships, body image, and more. Given the intimate nature of the performance content coupled with the still fresh in my mind high school vomiting memory, one could see my hesitation about joining such a group. Little did I know how much this first meeting would alter my perspective.
The meeting began innocently enough. We sat around and answered the basic questions: what’s your name, what year are you, and so on and so forth. But then we got a little closer to each other when the group leader asked everyone at the table, “What was your most embarrassing moment from a Grinnell hookup?” Excuse me, I thought, is that something you should even be asking? I didn’t think so. But to my surprise, everyone answered with very truthful and earnest answers, and I really admired everyone’s openness and acceptance of what others had to say. When it came to my turn, I shocked myself by answering with an embarrassing story of my own. So much for keeping my guard up. But I no longer felt it was necessary to do so. And I showed up for the second meeting.
The point of starting our practices with personal questions was to get the creative juices flowing. Hearing a response from one member of GMons might spark an idea in another member, and poof! A monologue is born! By the end of the semester, we all had come up with great ideas and were ready to perform. Some monologues were comical, others were serious, and some were emotional, but all of the performances were honest, insightful looks into topics that hardly ever get talked about in the open. Sharing a story about how uncomfortable a woman is with her large breasts, or how a man hates to be identified as a heterosexual alpha male, all in front of an audience, is not easy to do. However, stories such as these open doors to dialogue about body image and gender, doors I think deserve to be opened and dialogue that needs to be heard. I believe that everyone who walked away from watching that performance had an altered view about something discussed in the show.
It is probably hard to believe, but even after all my resistance to performing and getting up on stage, I became so enamored with Grinnell Monologues that I served as co-leader of the group the following year. Working with these students was incredibly rewarding because I got to listen to their stories and encourage them to be as truthful and sincere about their own stories as the leaders from the previous year had done with me. And the applause at the end of the performance? That was the best part.
Stephanie Rosenbaum '08 is a Spanish major from Glencoe, Illinois.