The lights go down as UNH student Colleen Rielly takes the stage of the Strafford Room in the MUB on Oct. 16. She takes a seat in front of the half-full room and a spotlight shines on her. She is wearing a dress and clutching a teddy bear tight to her chest. A voice comes from the side of the stage and asks her to state her name and age. She is Cara and she is four years old. Right now she loves her body and finds it to be beautiful. As she progresses to age eight and eventually to 14, she hates her body and is ashamed of it. “If I don’t look good, how will people know what kind of person I am?” she asks. The room goes dark and the audience claps enthusiastically as she walks off stage.
Showing off their inner beauty as part of the MUB Current Lecture Series, nine UNH students and faculty members took the stage and performed monologues pertaining to self-image and eating concerns. The Health Services sponsored event featured stories written by the performers or other UNH students, as well as a reading from a book. The performance was put on not only in an effort to offer support and inspiration to students, but to help kick off Fat Talk Free week, which starts on Oct. 21.
The inside of the event was decorated as well, with purple tablecloths, informational fliers, chocolates, and notecards with inspirational sayings adorning each table. With the technical difficulties of the lights and microphone volumes set aside, the message of the performances came through strong. Each performer spoke for roughly three or four minutes each, although some were longer, and most of them pertained to eating disorders. Most performers spoke of their own experiences, while some took on characters and others spoke of people they knew.
For example, in “My Maker’s Shape” student Kelsey Swalwell spoke of her mother’s long battle with self-esteem and body issues. Swalwell complimented her mother’s body and all of the things that she uses it for, whether it was bearing children, cooking dinner, or doing housework. She went on to discuss how this has affected her and how she’s trying not to fall into the same mindset as her mother.
Other performers, such as student Caitlin Doonan, told very personal stories.
Some performers took a different angle with their monologue, which is what Maria Caplan did. Caplan is the producer of Inner Beauty, as well as the Eating Concerns Mentor advisor and the nutrition educator for the Office of Health Education and Promotion.
Student Shanti Scott went a completely different route and decided to sing “Closer to Fine” by Indigo Girls as a way to express herself.
After the last performance Caplan then invited the audience to either speak about their own personal struggles or to offer words of hope to those who may be experiencing personal problems. The atmosphere in the room was inspirational and encouraging as the audience, mostly women, passed the microphone around to those willing to speak. The performance Inner Beauty looked to offer strength and advice to college students and judging by the overwhelmingly positive response from the audience, the performers accomplished just that.