Before this year I would have never considered myself a performer. Before this year I would have never considered myself a part of the queer community. Now I can say that I’m both. This year I became a more active member of EAGLE, Emerson’s LGBTQ+ organization, and through a lot of their events, I stepped more and more out of my comfort zone. Queer Monologues was probably the height of this.
Queer Monologues is an event created by Emerson senior, Nathan Coffing, who modeled it after Eve Ensler’s “The Vagina Monologues.” In Ensler’s play, she has a varying number of monologues that are typically performed with multiple women reading together. According to V-Day’s Website, “the Vagina Monologues” are “based on dozens of interviews Ensler conducted with women. The play addressed women’s sexuality and the social stigma surrounding rape and abuse, creating a new conversation about and with women.”
“Queer Monologues is a collective art piece intended to create a living book of experiences of LGBTQ+ people,” Coffing says about their vision for the project. “I wanted to bring the project to Emerson because we have so much talent in both writing and performing and I wanted to create a way that queer memory would exist and retain itself at the college, so that our stories would stay and hopefully resonate with someone else in the future.”
This project takes that same central concept of “The Vagina Monologues” and it extends it to the queer community. Emerson students were encouraged to submit their own work or audition to perform the works of those who did not want to perform them personally. Some students, like myself, chose to submit as well as perform. I wrote a slam poem about my gender identity and was able to see it given life on the stage as I performed it alongside three other Emerson students. This happened with the majority of the monologues which were written by one person but then were broken up between multiple voices, with some lines having more than one person reading them in unison. A few pieces were read solo to give the performance a quieter feel, especially if the piece was particularly personal. The first and last pieces, “What is Queer” and “Hi, Little Girl” were read by the entire cast.
The monologues address many personal aspects that a lot of those in the queer community can relate to. There are pieces about break ups, sex, coming out, and gender identity. The Queer Monologues is designed to give a space for queer people to be empowered and share their stories. So often queer people are discriminated against, erased from the media, not given a voice, but the Queer Monologues starts small and gives queer people a chance to speak and to be heard.
The performance happened on Thursday March 31st which fittingly and coincidentally happened to be on Transgender Day of Visibility, a day dedicated to celebrating and raising awareness for Transgender people. The fifteen performers read out the monologues of their fellow students and performers to a filled Cabaret in Emerson’s Little Building. The audience was extremely receptive, often snapping and laughing in response to all these emotions the performers placed into this space. Queer Monologues is going to continue in future years, with these pieces from the first performance being included in years to come. That way, even after students graduate, their voices will still be heard and their stories will take on new voices and new meanings as others step up to the stage to perform them.
At the beginning of this semester, I never thought I would get to a place where I could be comfortable enough to take a huge step out of my comfort zone and perform a personal piece as well as the pieces of fellow students in front of a crowd. I was able to find a way to express myself through Queer Monologues, and since the event is expected to continue throughout the years, hopefully this will be the beginning of an experience that will empower more Emerson students for years to come.