The Asian-American Theater Project (AATP) has taken a different approach to addressing identity, putting on a show called “Stanford Monologues” this weekend. The show discusses conflicting identities and issues with coming to terms with one’s own background, all told through eight different monologues.
Joseph Lee ’17, the writer of “Stanford Monologues,” heard the idea at an AATP board meeting last year and then decided to run with it. He interviewed a variety of people from diverse communities in the spring quarter of his freshman year and drew on those stories as inspiration for the monologues he wrote. Though the monologues are fictional, the issues are not, and to Lee they represented important discussions that need to be had at Stanford.
Although the play is being put on by the AATP, according to producers the goal was to make sure the program was as inclusive as possible.
“Something I noticed about Stanford is that we have different spaces for different kinds of students,” Lee said, referencing the cultural and LGBT centers. “It’s important that those spaces exist, but I think that unfortunately the discussions that happen in those places lose the opportunity to spread to other people and other communities.”
The monologues explore themes of race, gender, disability and sexual orientation, to name a few. The common thread is that the featured characters are all sharing their stories but refuse to be identified by a label, as their true identities are much more complex.
According to Lilian Kong ’18, a co-director of the show, “Stanford Monologues” is about looking beneath the surface of people to truly understand them.
“There is this facade that America is a place for a lot of voices to be shared, that it’s a safe space, but this isn’t true. Lots of people’s stories don’t get shared, and nobody cares about it. We need to remind ourselves that even though we think we know everyone around us, we really need to go that one step further,” Kong said. “Stories aren’t written on your faces.”
Kong and the other co-directors – Adi Chang ’18 and Praveen Ramesh ’14 – worked closely with each actor to develop their characters and explore these issues with them. However, they also sought to create a cohesive show, where every monologue contributed to the larger group. Chang explained that they began group rehearsals with every actor taking what they had learned from their individual rehearsal and coming together as a group.
“It was really moving, seeing all their stories come together and form a community at the end,” Kong said. “I didn’t think that would touch me so much.”
“I think that as long as it gets them thinking about the possibility of different perspectives, different ways for looking at people, then I would be happy,” Chang said.
“Stanford Monologues” will be running on Friday and Saturday at the Elliott Programming Center. The show will be followed by a panel in which students will talk about their experiences with identity and share their own stories.
Contact Leela Srinivasan at leelas ‘at’ stanford.edu.