STORIES FOR HEALING Must be Heard
#METOO MONOLOGUES: STORIES FOR HEALING is the mainstage production currently running at Hawaii Pacific University at their Paul and Vi Loo Theatre. In it’s third iteration, and just about a year from when it was first launched with Consultant/Dramaturge Maisa Thayer with Terri Madden directing in April 2018, #METOO MONOLOGUES: STORIES FOR HEALING features a new array of monologues submitted by people in the state that have a story that makes them say, “me too.” Thayer curates the online submissions and helps select which monologues to perform, and from there 2019 #METOO MONOLOGUES director Alex Munro develops the performances with the actors, some who are allies and some who are survivors themselves.
The cast of six (Rhianno Parsaca, Athena Iokepa, Dakota Jackson, Sasha Georgiades, Cheyne Nomura, and Leilani Leila Riahi) shares twelve monologues, all of which comes from someone’s actual life, pain, and healing. Each of the performances begins and ends clearly, with each actor stepping into the voices and skins of their survivors’ stories with alarming ease. The level of empathy and vulnerability is beautiful to witness as each testimony and story is treated with the amount of listening and humanity that they deserve. Around all of these stories of pain, fear, love, and healing is that ribbon of truth that most actors strive for in bigger and grander performances, making for some of the best acting that I’ve seen this year.
There are also three video pieces, performed by Betty Bolton, Danielle Zalopany, Hulita Drake, and Kela Neil. Munro enlisted the help of Michelle JoAnn to bring these video pieces to life, and she exercises a film and editing finesse that allows each story to stand on it’s own and be artfully told at the same time.
The stories shared are sometimes difficult to share, and sometimes uncomfortable to sit through. After all, behind all these voices is a survivor that said them, and during three of the monologues the survivors that actually wrote the pieces are the ones that performed them.
However, the entire evening is not a road through traumatic experiences nor is it meant to be an evening of self-flagellation because of the heavy subject matter. Yes, the collection of monologues and poems shared speak to the obvious pain that each survivor may have felt, but there is also a natural progression of the evening that looks to the process of healing, and the different types of healing that may occur within one another. In fact, this whole process is a way of healing for all of the survivors; by sharing their stories online and/or having them performed, it is empowering to those who have suffered. It allows for ownership, and a way to say “yes, this happened, and yes, I have survived it.” No matter where you are in the healing process, the show invites you to come forward and share with these hearts who may have felt the same thing, so that their is strength when you say to them, “me too.”
Originally, the transitions between monologues included the words, “me too.” Munro and the company expanded upon this notion, with words of validation, solidarity, support, and encouragement connecting the monologues together. Sometimes, there is no words, and one performance immediately goes to the next- this is because the performers have the choice to say they do not need those words; instead, all they wish is for people to listen and believe them. The supportive nature of the company and the production is extended to the audience as after every show there is a facilitated talk back, where questions and stories may be shared without any presumption or judgement.
Switching gears, the set is simple, classy, and comfy (in a productive way). DeAnne Kennedy transforms the Paul and Vi Loo into a wood floored, mahogany bricked studio, with the chairs and sittables arranged in a soft semi-circle. It’s clean, professional, and yet inclusive- everyone can see each other, and there is no hiding or shying away form anything or anyone on stage. Janine Meyers’ lighting shapes the stories and at times accents passages and arcs within pieces with lighting choices to advance the performance. Team Valasek’s sound design comes in clear, and the choices during the transitions were apt.
Hawaii’s theatre scene is pounding right now, with many shows opening this weekend and more continuing their runs. It is often easy to pass on a performance like this in favor of something more escapist or grander. Yet, I firmly believe this is a very important show to attend and listen to. Our society, as advanced as we claim to be, still face uphill hurdles regarding gender, race, inequality, and more. The #metoo movement was started as a way to validate stories that victims and survivors had shared because all they met with until then was disbelief and disregard. We, as a community and as individuals, must come together to acknowledge each other’s pain and tragedy, being more inclined to listen and believe first rather than jumping to conclusions and/or becoming rape, violence, and assault apologists. The #metoo movement had started with women, but includes men, as well as all genders and those who have been made to feel that their stories didn’t count. The survivors and allies performing these pieces want you to listen, and in turn want you to know how to listen to others and what to say to those hurting and struggling, taking the light they have shared and continue to light the world with it. If you do not know how, the actors show you during the production. Healing is something we all deserve, and I cannot recommend seeing this show enough. #METOO MONOLOGUES: STORIES FOR HEALING is a tender, raw, and honest look into the lives of survivors, who are all in various states of healing. No matter where you fall in this spectrum, there is something for you, just come with an open heart and an ear that’s ready to listen.
#METOO MONOLOGUES: STORIES FOR HEALING is performing at the Paul and Vi Loo Theatre on the HPU Windward campus through April 14. Tickets are available at www.hpu.edu/theatre, by calling 808-236-7917 and leaving a message, or at the door.