The Monologues
The monologues wrote themselves;
   they virtually spoke themselves into being.
One way to bear witness was to imagine their voices.


TheWASH! monologues took form from the known and imagined experiences of women at different points of time and place. The conversations include: The Narrator who recounts her experience at her mother’s washline and honors the legacy of the washerwomen; La Nonna, an Italian-American grandmother in 1948 who prepares a set of pink sheets for her soon to be born granddaughter while simultaneously preparing for her own passing; Marta, speaking from Sarajevo in 1999; Halle, an African-American washerwoman living in the Alabama of 1952; Su Lin, a 97-year old Chinese laundrywoman in San Francisco, 1991; and MaryEllen, returning to the Magdalene laundries in Dublin where as a young woman she had been sequestered and forced to work in the laundries, 1998.

The Narrator: “Women have been down at the riverbanks -- at the communal water basins or in their backyards, washing clothes and sharing their lives -- for thousands of years… and I want to pay attention to these conversations, to the words I imagine they might have spoken; I want to pay homage to our mothers and foremothers, to truly honor the legacy they have handed up to us…

La Nonna: “You know, Orlanda – you gonna have a girl. I see the way you carry…and you face… You know what? That’s the sign that God’s gonna give you a girl. O cara figliola, you hear what I’m saying? You gonna have a girl…Orlanda? Hai capito? [She picks up the laundry basket and shakes her head smiling.] Una femmina…”

Marta: “… When the wine got spilled my father would laugh and say, “Don’t worry, Marta, it’s good luck,” and then he would dip a finger into the wine and make the sign of the cross on my forehead. Good luck. I’d hurry to spill some salt on the stain. That’s what my grandmother taught me – that the salt draws the stain out…”

Halle: “…Yep, I been washin’ clothes for everybody for a long, long time now. They all knows it -- everybody say, “ Take it to Halle, she make it like new.” Sewin’ collars an’ buttons an’ hems. I don’t even say nuthin’ – I jus’ do it. Pull out my needle an’ thread. No charge. Cuz’ they all wantin’ somethin’ for nuthin’…”

Su Lin: “…Look at me – I am human, also – but no one bothered. Just pick up their shirts – “no tickee no shirtee,” they joked when they came in. I heard their dreadful humor, but I didn’t have to laugh – after all, I didn’t speak English…”

Maryellen: “… I stood in front of the plaque and I traced each name with my finger. Most of them I never knew. I took my time; I would have slept there if I needed to. I did not rush. I wanted to touch each of them – know, every story, every name – who they were. Imagine their voices and what they would say to me. What had been unspoken…all those years… washed away forever in the laundries…”


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