Editor’s Note: This article contains profane language.
There’s no curtain, no hum of silence between transitions, no chance for the actors to breathe before the next battle begins.
They’re exposed under the glaring lights—their eyes and minds transparent to the judges who are just a mere feet away from them.
Performers have 60 seconds to stage their monologues and continue onto the next round where they’ll go against another actor. Only one gets the $1000 award prize and an iPad-mini.
They aren’t Roman gladiators, bloodthirsty students in Battle Royale or young criminals in The 100—they are the 32 actors in the fifth annual Monologue Madness that takes place in the Miracle Theater in D.C.
Although the situation seemed highly intense, the atmosphere was casual and chatty—casting directors, mothers, cousins and acquaintances exchanged predictions on how the showdown was going to unfold as Usher’s “DJ Got Us Fallin’ in Love” played in the background.
“It’s supposed to smell like pussy,” stated Yasmin Holman, igniting the comedy round. “I don’t want my pussy to smell like rain,” she continued, standing confident and proud, reciting “My Angry Vagina,” from The Vagina Monologues, like a smug hurricane.
Depictions of blowjobs, PlayGirl spreads, Craigslist ads for psychotic kitty-stomping grandpas and vampire lesbians all appeared on stage, causing audience members to snort loudly and attempt not to cackle but without any success.
I connected to “Yoga Fart,” performed by Tameka Taylor, on a spiritual level. It perfectly presented the constant dilemma people face when doing yoga.
There were no restrictions or limitations to the age or experience of the performers. Twelve-year-old Ruth McCoy Miles unraveled a punchy monologue saying, “I have no tits,” surprising the audience.
Mary Miller, depicted the frustration of interacting with people, especially in the supermarket.
“Will you kindly move asshole?” she delivered her performance with vigor, her arms raised in impatience. She just wanted a tuna can.
The drama round pitched the artists into another dimension, completely alien from the one stuffed with laughter and giggles.
The heart was raw as soon as the first monologues thundered in—Tim Torre and Bryan Eng both unearthing daddy issues, the fervent search for one’s identity and acceptance.
The theme of a higher power was present as well—a mother having to bury her only son, saying “if my son is in hell, then there is no heaven,” stating God’s eyes are. Another monologue featured a daughter imagining her father as an assassinated president.
Heart and mind were taken away by competitor Towanda Underdue when she executed a passionate and calamitous depiction of a wife who knows of her husband’s affair, hands and body trembling to the sorrow and torment unfolding in her marriage.
Eight actors continued on to the classical round, which, as expected, contained a large amount of Shakespeare. Although I cringe when I remember reading A Midsummer’s Night Dream in middle school, Claire Schoonover and Ben Pittman’s depictions of Titania and Puck allowed me to appreciate Shakespeare’s quirky and mischievous spirit.
“It comes from a deep, guttural thing,” commented Devon Saunders on her husband’s, Jay Saunders, unblemished performance of Henry V during the third round. “He has a genuine passion and heart.”
The final round boiled my blood and cranked my inner fangirl up to Hulk mode. The top four competitors had to perform a new monologue and only had five minutes to prepare and then perform.
The actors gave their own style and flow interpreting a mother who had to tell their kids their dad had been strapped to the top of a car all the way from Canada.
The final two, Tim Torre and Mandy Moore, had the challenge of performing their comedic act again but with a twist. They had to act as if they had just been given a shot of fast-acting novocaine.
The crowd roared and howled as Torre and Moore gurgled their lines and withered on the floor, their eyes glazing over as the numbness “took over.”
In the end, Moore won the anticipated prize, giving a thoughtful speech on the importance of remembering the beauty of being able to perform and enjoy the variety of art presented on stage.
“It’s amazing to see and admire the talent that’s in the local DMV,” said Ben Pittman, who acted up until the fourth round. “It’s so cool to realize that just because I’m not in New York City doesn’t mean it’s not all around me. I’m from Baltimore so it’s nice to represent home.”
“It’s great to see these actors pull off different genres so specifically,” said actor and producer Edward Daniels, as dozens of people rushed onto the stage to thank him and congratulate him for the successful night.
In the contagious words of Bruno Mars, “Don’t believe me just watch!”—that’s exactly what all 32 actors did, they “Uptown Funk” the crowd up with an ease and a swagger that left everyone in a daze.
The sixth annual Monologue Madness will have some competition, if it hopes to be better than this year.
To view a complete list of the event’s participants, visit here.
Karla Casique is a freshman journalism major and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.