On Wednesday the 30th of March will see Maynooth’s and Ireland’s first ever production of The MENding Monologues performed on campus. As we were on Easter break the interview was conducted via Facebook messenger with Jonah Kapila Worcester, Co-Director/ Founder of the Social Justice League society which is hosting this production, Erin Murray Co-Director/Producer and Sambhavi Priyadarshini a cast member.
Jonah: The MENding Monologues is a show and healing movement about ending gender violence with an emphasis on the male perspective. However the show also explores various other social issues such as mental health, sex positivity, LGBT issues, men’s health and more. The cast invites all genders to be involved. All the monologues are true stories and the script encourages the cast to write their own stories also. The main purpose is that it is a therapeutic experience for both the cast and audience so they may heal from these issues that affect them. The movement started from founder Derek Dujardin, who was inspired by Eve Ensler’s Vagina Monologues and asked the question “I wonder what men would have to say about gender violence”.
Originally started as a comedy show called “Men Who Love Vaginas” which was in appreciation of the movement. However, after more serious monologues were written the show really began to develop.
The reason for the capitalization on MEN in the title is to be put men at the forefront. So men will talk about these issues as they traditionally don’t. The cast invites all genders but the emphasis of the male perspective is essential to the show. There should be at least 60% men in the cast.
Sambhavi: MENding is a person’s response to watching the Vagina Monologues and thinking to himself, perhaps, women aren’t the only ones who should be talking about gender violence. Maybe we should all be talking about it. I wasn’t really involved originally in the organisation. I was a cast member and well, climbed up the ranks I suppose. Jonah was part of it in the states during his Erasmus so when he realised Europe and especially Ireland hadn’t ever put it on, he wanted to do it here in Maynooth. I can’t really speak for her but I think, Erin became part of the organisation because she like the idea and is really into directing and producing. She is really good too. And a complete mammy figure. She’ll coddle you a lot but if you fuck up, she’ll have her metaphorical wooden spoon on the ready, you know?
Why have you decided to put on a production here in Maynooth?
Jonah: I was in the show last year when I studied abroad in California State University Monterey Bay. The show changed my life, it helped me find myself. It educated me beyond what I expected from being in a show. It made me aware of so many important crucial social issues in society. I realized how much it changed me for better and I made the vow that I would bring it back to my home campus of Maynooth University.
We have grown so much as a campus, especially how we tackle larger issues like the marriage equality bill. It is very exciting that the MENding Monologues European Premiere is on our beautiful campus. I knew I wouldn’t be able to do MENding on my own. The first person I talked to was my good friend Erin Murray. Before I even returned to Ireland we had Skype calls about how to make MENding happen.
When I returned I realized that I didn’t only want to make the show happen but I wanted to lay a foundation for it carry on every year in MU. I personally told everyone about MENding, from SU staff, my friends, clubs and socs. The next step was we needed to hold an event to explain what MENding was which coincidentally was held in KISS week. Very fitting as several of our monologues have a lot to say about consent. We then held auditions and within a week and half we had our cast. From first and second semester it’s been a lot of work from the production team and the cast. Now the time is approaching and this dream I had last year is becoming a reality it’s kind of surreal.
Erin: I first heard of the MENding monologues about a year ago. Jonah, our co-director took part in a production in California during his year abroad and was really excited to bring the show to Maynooth. Our campus has seen many Campaigns about consent, but after hearing about MENding I realised that there was a huge gap in the voices being heard on the topic. Where were the men? Were they afraid to speak? Did they think these topics weren’t relevant to them? I decided that helping Jonah bring this to Maynooth would give this campus a new perspective, and hopefully give everyone a voice.
A lot of careful planning and thought went in to this, because it means so much to us. A lot of people have helped us out along the way. Dee Campbell, the president of Pride Soc was a huge help to us starting out in terms of advice and creative ideas. This show has been one big team effort by the cast who have gone above and beyond helping with production.
What have you learned during the production process?
Jonah: I have learned from hearing the cast speak about the issues they may face that there is so much more this movement can do. Not only for men and women but for those that identify outside the non-binary genders. I have learned of all the work in putting of putting on a show, performing in it and co-directing. I have been involved in the organizing of events before but never anything like this. It’s been a great challenge but very rewarding. I have learned pitching and marketing skills. This is something that practically no one on campus have heard of. I wanted to get as many behind it as possible so I had to learn how to explain MENding at the drop of a hat to someone who asked. More than anything I have learned to be a leader. Carrying a whole movement to both a country and continent is a large responsibility. The cast and team are like family and I must lead them in way that helped both their message, healing and the message of the show. It has been an incredible experience yet again but completely different to last year at the same time. I have learned a lot. I do hope that I will look back and see that MENding carries on it our campus but also the country and Europe. I’d love in a few years’ time to be able to sit in the audience and see a show.
Erin: I’ve learned so many things from this experience. I have learned that there are many voices that need to be heard on all sorts of issues, and that no issue is strictly gender biased. I have also learned that the students at Maynooth care a great deal for social justice issues like gender violence and this can be seen in some of the personal pieces we have in the show.
Sambhavi: What I have learned, is that I am a strangely funny writer when I want to be. I never knew I could write funny things. I also went through some catharsis because I wrote about something I had been holding on to for a very long time. It was a very nurturing experience for the writer in me. What I would do with a repeat, honestly I don’t know. We won’t know the kinks unless we see the performance. So I guess if we repeat this interview after the 30th of March, I’ll have a better answer!
How do you feel about performing? Excited? Nervous?
Jonah: I’m so excited for my cast and have full faith in them. However I am particularly nervous about my own personal monologue called “Balance”. Yes I have stage experience, I was in a metal band in high school, I’ve been in plays, comedy shows, I love public speaking but this specifically is a challenge for me.
Not give too much away but my monologue is about being a man with a strong feminine side and it balances me out. I am going to bare my soul to everyone, be open about my insecurities, and show a side of me to everyone that I am quiet about. That is why I am doing and why this is important for me to finally break the stigma and be brave and honest. It’s been an uphill emotional battle to push myself to do this but I am and I am excited, and nervous how some may react. However I am at that point in my life, I have do it not only for myself but other men that may feel the same.
Sambhavi: I love performing. I basically grew up on stage. I have been dancing since I was 3 and acting since I was 9 so it’s kind of like home to me, the stage. I feel a bit nervous though because I haven’t performed personal pieces in a while.
What have your own experiences been in this shows context?
Jonah: Funny you ask that because I really bring my story into my monologue of my journey as a man and how that has felt through the society we live in. I ask the question in my monologue “what does it mean to be a man?” A question I have asked for a long time. I feel that through watching Vagina Monologues and being in MENding twice I have finally learned what that is.
Erin: It’s difficult to see things without the media skewing perspectives these days. I found that impacted the way I’ve viewed people of other genders even if I didn’t realise it. This show has allowed me to step away from the stereotype of the strong silent male and see that people of different genders can feel the same things and go through the same things as I can. I feel like I had always known this, but sometimes it’s hard to believe until you hear different people’s stories, which is why MENding is so important.
Is there any particular message you hope an audience will take away with them?
Sambhavi: Being non-binary is hard. Being anything that this world sees as weird is hard and lonely. But hey it’s me, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. If there is something I would like people to take away from this it would be, that people check themselves. Check their privilege. Be aware of where they stand in society compared to the human beings around them. Be aware of that status and to use it. People have a way of ignoring problems, because hey, they can’t see how what they are doing is a problem or how what’s happening has anything to do with them. But we are all human beings. We should all matter and our problems are everyone’s problems.
Erin: MENding is really a roller coaster of a show. It’s full of light and shade, some people may laugh, or cry. Really it depends on the person what they take from the show. That’s why it’s so unique. It all depends on what monologue clicks with the person. Really by doing this show we hope the audience leave feeling impacted, in whatever way that may be. If they’ve learned something about new issues or have a different point of view, even if they just leave feeling different then when they arrived, we’ll have done our job.
Jonah: The MENding Monologues is a show where you may cry, laugh, and think. I hope the audience take away the message of ending gender violence. I hope that those that have been hurt by these issues may feel some closure or comfort. I hope that those that don’t know about this issues may be educated, moved, or inspired to learn more from seeing the show.
The most important thing I hope they take away the message which is to heal and mend from these problems we speak of. I cannot talk enough about how important MENding is for our modern society. It is essential that we educate, and spread the message and movement about healing.
We have a powerful show lined up, this cast has covered a lot of crucial concerns. Including sexual assault, mental health, LGBTQ issues, sex positivity, even BDSM. We have a great balance of pieces that will have you laughing and the ones that are quite sad but with positive endings. We have 6 original monologues written by our cast. Please come and be part of Continental history happening on our own Maynooth campus!
Wednesday 30th of March,
Doors open at 6.30pm,
Show starts 7pm,
Tickets €4 and all proceeds go to the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre.