This past Friday was the National Day of Listening and as far as unofficial holidays go, this is one we can all get behind. Created to celebrate the rich histories of our friends and families, National Day of Listening encourages participants to swap stories with those we love most. Here at Quirk Books, we don’t want the fun to stop when you run out of words. We’ve gathered monologues from some of our favorite playwrights to keep the party going. Because the only family drama we want is a tiff over who gets to play the ingénue.
Production still from the HBO miniseries
Prior Walter from Angels in America by Tony Kushner
In the final moments of Tony Kushner’s opus Angels in America, Prior Walter meets his closest confidants – unlikely friends, all of them – at the Bethesda Fountain in Central Park to celebrate his birthday and to celebrate the fact that he’s still living, despite everything. “The fountain’s not flowing now, they turn it off in the winter, ice in the pipes,” He tells the audience. “But in the summer it’s a sight to see. I want to be around to see it. I plan to be. I hope to be.” Pick up a copy of this Pulitzer Prize winning play and revel in Prior’s last words – capitalized in their emphasis. “And I bless you: More Life. The Great Work Begins.”
KJ from The Aliens by Annie Baker
Annie Baker’s fictional Vermont town provides a playground for two would-be bandmates and the teenage barista who works at the coffee shop they frequent. Midway through the play, KJ tells the coffee slinging Evan a story from his childhood. When he was five years old, he couldn’t get the word “ladder” out of his brain. “I couldn’t stop saying it. I started like whispering it to myself at night and I wouldn’t be able to fall asleep,” KJ confides. “And finally one night my mom got into my bed with me and she was like: you can say it for as long and as loud as you want and I’ll hold your hand the whole time. And I was like: okay.” What follows is the most meditative exploration of a single word you’ll ever hear. But even more profound than that is the information shared following that last “ladder.”
Mary from Passion Play by Sarah Ruhl
The masterful playwright Sarah Ruhl put her own spin on the passion play, borrowing characters from history and The Bible to tell her own story. Early in the play, Mary 1 steps out from the ensemble to offer her telling monologue. “Hail Mary, full of grace… I hate to sleep alone,” she confides. “My feet get cold. I put socks on and then my feet get hot so I take them off under the blankets but then my feet get cold again in the night.” What follows is a heartbreaking analysis of herd mentality and fertility. This incredible play features a lively cast of ensemble characters, so there are plenty of roles – and monologues – to go around.
W from Lungs by Duncan Macmillan
Duncan Macmillan’s intimate chamber drama beautifully explores potential parenthood with a calculated balance of poetry and gravity. So W’s simultaneously rational and emotional response to her own miscarriage should come as no surprise. “It’s for the best probably isn’t it? Would have completely taken over our lives,” she says. “So much time and money, so much that could go wrong. End up sleepless with worry or with our heads in the sand.” Listening to W work out her shock here is nothing short of stunning.