MIT Monologues 2023 takes place, featuring 17 student-written pieces & 250+ attendees
Ma: “The purpose of Monologues is simply a space for marginalized genders and if you give that space, beautiful things will happen no matter what.”
The 2023 MIT Monologues performances took place over the weekend of Feb. 24-Feb.26. Monologues (formerly Vagina Monologues at MIT) is a series of performances highlighting marginalized communities and discussing issues of gender, sex, relationships, and race.
This year’s show marked the 23rd year of performance, and is the second year featuring pieces exclusively written by the MIT students. Monologues consists of current MIT students and alumni, featuring 13 actors and 5 directors producing a total of 17 pieces—four of which were written specifically for the 2023 production.
According to Monologues producer Katherine Hahn ’21, approximately 250-300 people attended the performance across the three showings.
A Variety of Expressive Performances
The monologues featured a wide breadth of topics relating to identity. The pieces were split into “personal pieces” written by students and existing pieces in the Monologues repertoire. A brief list of the performances provided by MIT Monologues performers and writers is below.
“Crisp”: a piece detailing the experience of chronic pain, previously featured in The Tech
“In the Silence”: a piece detailing the experience relating to police brutality and the experience of being an Asian woman in America
“Let’s Talk About Sex”: a piece satirizing “tips” provided by female fashion magazine Cosmopolitan designed to make women palatable to the male gaze. The piece also compared Cosmopolitan to Men’s Health
“5 Distinct Memories as a Transwoman”: a piece detailing the experiences and memories of a trans woman
“Tired”: a piece detailing the stories of three different women and their struggle with gendered expectations in marital relationships
Toomas Tennisberg ’23 explained that they have a “habit of going to see all theatrical performances done at MIT.” Upon attending the show, they found the monologues “enlightening and helpful reminders of the issues women still face in society.”
Tennisberg also found the opening performance which compared MIT course numbers to sex analogies humorous, as well as the piece comparing Cosmopolitan to Men’s Health. Overall, Tenisburg felt that the performances were strong, given that the “actors conveyed the emotions extremely well” and “the monologues themselves were well-paced and easy to follow.”
Miranda-Llovera ’23, performer of “Let’s Talk about Sex,” expressed how they enjoyed performing this satirical piece, highlighting that it was a “particularly fun role” which allowed them to express their energy and bubbliness on stage. Through performing, Miranda-Llovera was able to “tap into experiences to perform something important to [themself] and others.”
Maximiliano Martinez ’25 found “In the Silence” particularly evocative—describing how the performer “immediately deter[ed] any act of indignation,” in sharing their experience of “having many of these wandering eyes shot at [them].”
“In the Silence” was written and performed by Joy Ma ’24, who highlighted the unique experience of having both “strangers and friends” speak to them about how the performance impacted them. “It’s hard to take a step back and see the impact of [my piece] and objectively know if it creates value or not,” reflected Ma.
Monologues also provided an opportunity for both the attendees and performers to reflect on issues of identity. Speaking of “Tired,” Tennisburg stated that they are “at risk of being one of those lazy husbands.” They reflected that the story provided a reminder to be better and improve themselves upon marriage.
Organizing MIT Monologues
The process of organizing MIT Monologues involved holding auditions in November, with performance preparation taking place during IAP into late February. Hahn highlighted the importance of selecting pieces—either from the existing Monologues repertoire or newly self-written—that “actors identify with and want to tell the story of.”
To promote performance inclusivity, performers can perform a personal piece, repertoire piece, or both. Furthermore, the Monologues team provides support to student writers throughout the process of crafting the piece—including “writing support, directing, and performance help.”
Paige Bright ’24, author of pieces “Crisp” and “5 Distinct Memories as a Transwoman,” stated that the most challenging aspect of the writing process was “becom[ing] comfortable enough with my identity” to share personal details and experiences with a wider MIT audience. Kaelyn Dunnell ’25, Monologues assistant producer, reflected that it was difficult to choose one way to perform a piece that could be expressed in a multitude of ways.
MIT and Broader Community Impact
When asked what the most valuable message they hoped attendees would take away was, Monologues participants provided a variety of responses. Common themes included the importance of listening to stories and uplifting the experiences of marginalized people.
Miranda-Llovera highlighted the student-written aspect of the pieces—that no matter how light-hearted or serious the message, each piece reflects the experience of someone within the MIT community. “You might not be aware of the life of others, even those that you would consider close friends,” Miranda-Llovera said.
Through sharing stories, Dunnell hoped that viewers could form better relationships with love, sex, and gender. “Whether we like it or not, [sex and gender] dictate how we move through the world,” Dunnell explained.
Bright expressed that while people generally perceive MIT to be a “wholesome place where nothing can ever go wrong,” that isn’t the case, especially with regards to uplifting marginalized identities. Hahn concluded, “we all grow in discomfort and from learning from others.”
In addition to promoting and facilitating discussion with the MIT community, Monologues gives back to the broader Boston community. In recent years, the production donates proceeds to the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center and the Cambridge Women’s center.
The organizations were selected due to the importance of their work, particularly topics regarding the production—“helping gender minorities when they need it most,” explained Hahn.
When asked about improvements and changes to Monologues, Hahn requested that the community “continue to build a space where minority voices are listened to and supported.” The Monologues are always “learning and shifting,” she stated.
Miranda-Lllovera, a graduating senior, expressed how Monologues created a space to hear “stories far different than mine” and to meet “people that I never would have met otherwise.”
“Now that my time in the Monologues is over, I cannot help but sit and reflect at how lucky I am that an opportunity like this came into my life,” Miranda-Llovera reflected.
Ma expressed satisfaction with Monologues, as it “is simply [to be] a space for marginalized genders and if you give that space, beautiful things will happen no matter what.”
MIT Monologues 2023 was sponsored by Violence Prevention & Response (VPR), Pleasure@MIT, and MIT Women's & Gender Studies (WGS). Attendees can send feedback regarding the event to the organizers at firstname.lastname@example.org
Due to the sensitive nature of the performance content, MIT Monologues was consulted by The Tech to ensure protection of the performers’ privacy.