The Peterborough Players Professional Theatre held a performance of the one-woman show “All in Good Fun” by Talene Monahon.
The play has been performed at Dartmouth College, United Solo Theatre Festival in New York and at various New Hampshire high schools.
The show was developed from a series of about 30 interviews conducted by the play’s creator, Talene Monahon, a Dartmouth graduate and professional actress.
“All in Good Fun” discussed the social scene at Dartmouth College, including the hidden issues of sexual assault, violence and hazing in Greek life. In this performance, the students told the story through Monahon, as she acted out the interviews she conducted. She imitated the mannerisms and vocal characteristics of fraternity brothers, sorority sisters, professors and other Dartmouth students.
“It’s boring to me when somebody tells me they’ve been raped. It’s like saying, ‘I’m in a history class’,” Monahon said, quoting one of the Dartmouth students she interviewed.
The show combined monologues, computer graphics and short musical numbers sung by Monahon. At the end of the show they held a “talk back,” where the artist came back on stage and discussed the performance with the audience. The audience was able to ask questions and get a behind-the-scenes look at the performance.
The Peterborough Players website describes the show as, “A story all too common in the news today: A well-respected school, praised for safe campuses and happy students, is plagued with high-profile hazing exposés, sexual assault scandals, and controversies over campus Greek life.”
In order to develop the show, Monahon said she interviewed about 30 Dartmouth students, of whom she did not know personally. She said she used a tape recorder to document them because a video camera might have prompted people to give less candid answers.
When asked how she maintained a neutral mindset when conducting interviews on controversial topics, Monahon said, “I went into [the interviews] with curiosity, I genuinely wanted to hear from people.”
Monahon continued, “I really respected and admired everyone I interviewed. I wasn’t out to get anybody.”
Monahon said she had to develop a neutral expression and try not to respond or react, only ask questions with each interview. Since Monahon started as a freshman at Dartmouth College, she said, “People are certainly more aware, there has been a lot more discussion and positive momentum,” in regards to the sexual assault and violence problem.
According to a USA Today article published in January 2014, the college or university with the highest total reported forcible sex-offenses is Pennsylvania State University. The statistics were taken from a 2012 report done by Penn State—the university attributed the high number at the time to the Sandusky sex-abuse scandal, according to USA Today.
In 2012 the Center for Disease Control reported, “In a study of undergraduate women, nineteen-percent experienced attempted or completed sexual assault since entering college.”
Dartmouth had 35 total reported forcible sex offenses from 2010 to 2012, a number below reports from Harvard and Yale, according to the Washington Post.
In response to the media scrutiny regarding hazing in Greek life and the sexual-assault and violence reports, Monahon said Dartmouth College, “has made a really good effort in creating alternative spaces for its students.”
Adjunct Professor of Theatre and Dance at Keene State College, Doug Wilcox, attended the performance with his Theatre and Social Issues class.
“I thought it was brave—it took a lot of guts for a student in the institution to choose to address a very public issue in an interesting way,” Wilcox said.
“It was empowering,” he added, “Theatre is about telling stories that need to be told and you never know where you are going to be inspired.”
He said he tries to teach his students that, “All theatre is political; being human is political.”
His class is newly-introduced to KSC. He was inspired to teach it because of his own interest in using theatre and science to address social issues, as well as his trips to the country Zambia with his wife, Assistant Professor of Health Science at KSC, Margaret Henning. Wilcox said he likes to use theatre, “as a means of empowerment.”
Junior and studio art major at KSC, Janelle Dragon, attended the performance with Wilcox’s class. Dragon said the performance was, “Eye-opening because I haven’t heard much about the issues at Dartmouth,” she continued, “I found it interesting because as a student at Keene State I don’t participate in Greek life, so I don’t hear much about it.”
The play has sparked a lot of discussion about the issues of sexual assault and hazing on college campuses, but Monahon explained “Theatre does not provide answers.”
Hannah Sundell can be contacted at email@example.com