December 10, 2014

DIY Panza Featuring Kayleigh Melite at SUNY, Oneonta

This is the first post in a new series on our blog - "DIY Panza" - highlighting the work of college students and cultural workers that produce Panza Monologues events of their own on their campuses and in their communities. Over the years, students have produced The Panza Monologues on college campuses across the nation, including Cal State Monterrey Bay, Cal State Long Beach, University of Colorado Boulder, Oregon State University, University of Texas at San Antonio, Mills College, and most recently, University of California Riverside and SUNY Oneonta. We are always grateful, humbled and honored by these efforts because we know first hand just how hard it can be to make theater. Our second edition of the play in publication was specifically conceived of and designed to help make the process of making theatre just a little bit easier. We included numerous kinds of materials to accompany the script including a DIY Production Manual, full of guidelines, advice and good wishes for staging The Panza Monologues

Kayleigh Melite recently used this manual to direct and produce The Panza Monologues at SUNY Oneonta. We were impressed by her professionalism and care throughout the process - just look at her request letter to produce the show HERE to see what we mean. Gracias Kayleigh for making our panzas yours. 

Power to the Panza!

Name: Kayleigh Melite 
Kayleigh Melite
Hometown: Clifton Park, NY

A lot of people who aren’t from New York don’t realize that there is more to the state than just a big, bustling city at the southeastern corner. I’m from a suburban town in Saratoga County, and have only been to “The City” a handful of times. When I do make a trip downstate, my favorite restaurant of all time is Bareburger. I come from a relatively large family and am the second oldest out of five children. 

What school do you attend?
I’m currently a Senior at SUNY Oneonta, majoring in Biology and minoring in Theatre. I have no idea what I want to do when I graduate. Right now I’m President of the Theatre Honor Society on campus, which has just partnered with another group that I’ve been involved with for the past few years - The Identity Play Reading Series. 

The Identity Play Reading Series is a group of students, faculty, and community members who seek to produce staged readings of plays about different facets of identity, including but not limited to:  gender, ethnicity, age, disabilities, occupation, and interpersonal relationships. We explore the differences, but more importantly the similarities, between individuals. We hold an open dialogue at the end of each staged reading to discuss the pertinent issues of the play and ask the audience for their thoughts and reactions. I recently produced and directed a staged reading of The Panza Monologues as part of the series. 

Can you describe the event you produced? 
The Panza Monologues was performed in the Hamblin Theater, SUNY Oneonta’s black box space. I ended up casting four women to tackle this one-woman show. One thing instilled in me by my experience with collegiate theatre is that theatre is a collaborative art form. I wanted to involve many students in my staged reading of The Panza Monologues for this reason. Each one of my actresses/readers brought something unique to the performance, and I tried to utilize their contrasting energies to bring alive the stories in the script. 

What did you learn producing The Panza Monologues on your campus? 
There was one significant challenge I faced while trying to put together this staged reading:  the majority of my campus is white. For any other play this wouldn't matter, but The Panza Monologues calls for a strong female lead that can speak Spanish fluently. I needed a woman who could deliver the Spanish, and deliver it authentically. I am not embarrassed to admit that I don’t even speak 

Spanish myself. I know some of the basics, and can understand some Spanish if I’m reading it, but I sure as heck can’t roll my r’s or pronounce the tricky stuff. Even so, I have a good ear and could tell right away when I found the right actress/reader to carry the Spanish-intensive stories. When she and I both got stuck on some of the language, Dr. Alvarez of SUNY Oneonta’s Africana and Latino Studies Department was there to guide us. 

In our post-performance discussion, somebody asked me why I chose to direct The Panza Monologues. My reply was this:  I’m very picky when it comes to directing. I had been reading a bunch of scripts because I knew I wanted to direct a staged reading, but nothing was grabbing my attention. One of my peers had a copy of The Panza Monologues and let me borrow it. I wasn’t even halfway through when I knew I absolutely had to do it. I heard that little voice that said, “Direct me!” The script was funny. It was sad. It was so many things at once. I think that everybody has experienced something the play addresses, or at least knows somebody that has. 

In our discussion we also talked about how important The Panza Monologues is, regardless of one’s ethnicity. There is a certain universality that arises when we realize that we all have a panza. At the same time, the script does contain material that is specific to the Chicano/a experience. Two of my actresses/ readers expressed how good it felt to be part of a production that was relevant to them because of their family’s heritage. The feeling of empowerment was an overall theme that many people took away from the performance.

Our staged reading of The Panza Monologues was the best-attended reading that The Identity Play Reading Series has produced thus far, or at least since I’ve been involved. It meant the world to me that so many people were there to listen with their ears and with their hearts. 

What is your favorite quote from The Panza Monologues?
My favorite quote is definitely, "I decide not to tell them that the blood of the conqueror takes up more space than anything else inside my body..."  - "The International Panza" 

First and foremost, I think this line is hilarious. During rehearsals I would smile before the line was even delivered. But it's more meaningful than that. We all have information that we may choose to withhold from new people we meet. Choosing to tell them or choosing to not tell them certainly depends on the situation.

Do you want to stage a full production or reading of The Panza Monologues? 
Contact us at

1 comment:

  1. First of all I was honored that Identity Plays asked me to join their group this semester. I was also excited that Kayleigh selected Virginia Grise and Irma Mayorga’s The Panza Monologues to stage at SUNY Oneonta, where I teach. (I taught the play in two of my classes and it was a hit!) Kayleigh did a great job directing the play, and was very intentional about selecting the appropriate cast. The performers, all women of color, powerfully represented the wide range of stories conjured up in Panza. I had the privilege of being involved in the process from auditions, to rehearsals, coaching and facilitation of the discussion after the show. The performance was a total success! We had a full house and the performers each brought their own panza power to the stage in magical ways! The dialogue we had afterwards was productive, urgent and inspirational. I appreciated Kayleigh understanding the need to cast women of color with diverse types of bodies in this play and that something like this was necessary on a campus like ours that struggles with diversity. That night, in that theatre, through the voices and Panza stories of Chicanas, the talent of women of color performers, the vision of someone like Kayleigh, and the voices of those in the audience, we created a transformative space. Power to the Panza!