The Teen Monolgues

Image: Trevyn Wong, center, along with Mya Paredes, left, Maggy Brown, Libby Wahlmeier and Alex Houlis run through a scene during a rehearsal for “Teen Monologues” at the San Luis Obispo Little Theatre

Source: JOE JOHNSTON, The Tribune News  

Editor’s Note:  This San Luis Obispo production is a creative and effective way of highlighting the teen social and emotional issues of today.  ACS is excited to share this story in hopes of igniting the same idea in schools and communities in the Silicon Valley.

‘Teen Monologues’ shares SLO County teens’ stories

Local youths share their experiences through CAPSLO theater project

March 31, 2015

A young couple copes with an unplanned pregnancy. A girl struggles with drug use. A boy comes out as gay.

These stories, and more, are featured in the teen theater project “Teen Monologues.” Written and performed by local teenagers, and directed by John Battalino, the production deals with issues relevant to today’s youth.

“There are stories that I feel need to be heard because they’re stories that teens don’t share … with their peers or their parents,” said Alex Houlis, a past “Teen Monologues” participant. “These topics we’re discussing need to be confronted.”

Now in its 13th year, “Teen Monologues” will hold two community performances Thursday at the San Luis Obispo Little Theatre. Proceeds benefit youth health and prevention programs at the Community Action Partnership of San Luis Obispo County Inc.(CAPSLO).

In addition to “Teen Monologues,” which will be performed for high school students across San Luis Obispo County, the CAPSLO programs include comprehensive sex education in classrooms, childhood obesity programs, academic case management for expectant and parenting teens, and the youth resources website

“They’re all important parts of a web of prevention and support that students need,” said Francine Levin, youth programs manager for CAPSLO’s Health and Prevention Division. She created “Teen Monologues” with the help of local teens.

Originally inspired by Eve Ensler’s “The Vagina Monologues,” “Teen Monologues” centers on two teenagers who meet, fall in love and have sex, resulting in an unplanned pregnancy. Their story is intertwined with those of other teens dealing with drug and alcohol abuse, dating violence, parent-child communication problems and additional issues.

“It’s really broadly focused on teen sexual health and decision-making, and what can come from those decisions,” Levin explained, with teen pregnancy prevention as the narrative backbone.

The script evolves every year depending on the feedback “Teen Monologues” gets from students.

For instance, after focus groups recommended incorporating content specific to the gay, lesbian, transgender and bisexual community, the “Teen Monologues” writing staff met with a support group for LGBT youth and developed a monologue about a young man coming out on campus.

That monologue, which debuted last year, will also be featured in this year’s show.

“Every little piece we put into it, another person says, ‘That’s my story. That’s what needed to be heard,’” Houlis said.

San Luis Obispo High School junior Mya Paredes, 16, said she relates most to the story of Sandra, who was raised by a single mom. Like the character, she grew up without her biological father.

Local teen mom Maggy Brown, meanwhile, has a lot in common with young, expectant mother Laura.

“Young parents have it hard,” said Brown, whose daughter, Emma, turns 2 in June. “You lose all your friends. Your parents aren’t there for you. You’re on your own.”

“I need(ed) someone to reach out to,” she added, “and now I have a whole audience to reach out to.”

Brown was one of the five writers who worked on updating “Teen Monologues” this year.  She and fellow writers Danielle Diaz and Kathryn Scarry are among this year’s cast members, which include Paredes, Katherine Blauvelt, Matt Nino, Trevyn Wong and Alex Con Dohlen.

Emma Faye, “Teen Monologues” project coordinator for the past three years, first participated in the project as a 17-year-old student at San Luis Obispo High School.

“It was a very, very wonderful experience … really empowering and inspiring,” said Faye, who holds a bachelor’s degree in health promotion and disease promotion from the University of Southern California.

Last year’s “Teen Monologues” cast performed for nearly 1,000 youth services providers at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services grantee conference in Washington, D.C. (“Teen Monologues” is funded through a grant from the federal Office of Adolescent Health.”)

The project has been duplicated in five other communities, including Los Angeles County, Marin County and the Central Valley, and translated into sign language.

But the true impact of “Teen Monologues” can be measured by the lives of its student participants.

Before “Teen Monologues,” Houlis used drugs to help her cope with crippling social anxiety and depression.

“I didn’t really think that I was that important, that I needed to be heard,” said Houlis, who attended San Luis Obispo High School before finishing her senior year at Olive Grove Charter School in San Luis Obispo.

“Teen Monologues” changed that, she said, and gave her “a more defined sense of self.”

“I found my voice here. I found purpose and meaning here, and people and passion,” said Houlis, now a freshman at UC Santa Cruz. “I don’t think I would be the person I am or in the place I am if I hadn’t had this experience.”