18 silhouettes stood onstage at Berkeley High School’s Little Theater, applause thundering across the room as the opening night of “Our Monologues” came to a close. During the show’s two-hour run time, cast members performed monologues, dances, and songs, exploring a vast array of topics within the BHS community.
Directed by seniors Mimia Ousilas and Juniper Dorado, this year’s “Our Monologues” dives into issues of race, identity, relationships, and sexuality through the perspectives of BHS students. Dorado explained how as an entirely student-run operation, a diversity of stories is an important aspect of “Our Monologues.”
“The variety of topics that ‘Our Monologues’ touches on helps (us) humanize each other because we’re learning about all of these different aspects rather than just focusing on one,” Dorado said. Without a variety of subject matter, “we wouldn’t see the full picture of Berkeley High, of our community, or of the person who’s performing,” she continued.
Each monologue performed in the show was written and submitted by a BHS student, many of which were submitted anonymously.
When monologues are anonymous, “we have to craft a story with very little context about the person … so we have to find a way to honor the story and get the actor involved with their own interpretation (in order to) embody the piece,” Dorado said.
Eloise Biddle-Gottesman, a BHS sophomore and Our Monologues cast member, has deeply considered her role as the performer of the anonymously submitted monologue “I Should Have Known.” The monologue delves into the pain and guilt that can take place after a loved one attempts suicide.
“I didn’t write it, but I know that someone at Berkeley High (who might) come see the show wrote this monologue,” Biddle-Gottesman said. “It’s not some far off playwright, so I really have to do it justice because this is someone in the community’s story.”
Biddle-Gottesman uses a variety of approaches as a performer in order to stay true to the author’s piece.
“I try to get a lot of feedback from people, especially in the cast,” she said. Biddle-Gottesman continued, “(Although) it’s not my monologue, it’s definitely a monologue that I can relate to, so I try and think about how I relate to it when performing.”
Each rehearsal, the members of Our Monologues check in with each other from anywhere between twenty minutes to an hour, talking about their lives and how they’re doing.
“It’s not only (about) getting ready for a show, it’s also getting to know a whole group of people who you may have never met before,” said Maya Hill, a BHS senior and cast member, dancer, and choreographer. “I think that that bond between us makes us have such good chemistry as a whole cast.”
Because of the many sensitive topics spoken about within the performance, trust between cast members is a crucial part of Our Monologues.
“I know I have people I can fall back on consistently,” Hill said. “Even beyond this show, we’re going to stay as friends, and it’s a great community to be a part of,” they said.
In addition to being a vital outlet for student creativity at BHS, Our Monologues provides a space for the audience, writers, and performers to acknowledge their emotions and heal.
“It’s not just like a show for the audience. It’s also for the actors, and it’s a way for us to process things,” said Biddle-Gottesman.
Cast members wrote and submitted their own works in addition to outside submissions, adding a layer of vulnerability and significance to the show.
“When we’re performing our stories or someone else’s, it’s healing,” said Dorado. “Performance is a part of it, but (Our Monologues) is also about the community and just being able to share your story.”
“It’s not just like a show for the audience. It’s also for the actors, and it’s a way for us to process things.”Eloise Biddle-Gottesman
In Hill’s eyes, “(Our Monologues) is really important to Berkeley High because it demonstrates stories from people often not heard.” They added, “Having a judgment-free place where people can learn about something they may not have known someone was facing (is) really important for the people at Berkeley High.”
Both performers and audience members step out of their comfort zones in the performance.
“Hopefully (when) you come to the show … there (will) be pieces that make you feel heard, and also pieces that challenge your thinking and make you see the different people around Berkeley High in different, more human ways,” Dorado said.
The final two performances of Our Monologues are from 7 to 9 p.m. on Friday, March 3, and Saturday, March 4. Tickets can be purchased online at ourmonologuesbhs.wordpress.com or in person at the BHS Little Theater.
Disclaimer: Various Jacket staff members are involved in Our Monologues but were not directly involved in the reporting or publication of this story.