Name: Ciara Brown
Hometown: Long Valley, New Jersey
Major: Engineering (Networked and Social Systems)
Activities: Member of the Theatre Arts Council, member of Penn V–Day, Technical Director of iNtuitons
Street: You mentioned you’re in V–Day. What is it and what role do you play?
CB: V–Day is this really cool organization on Penn’s campus, and they’re most known for producing the Vagina Monologues, which is now Penn Monologues. It’s this group that focuses a lot on empowering women and femme individuals, or people who don’t fit on a binary gender spectrum. They hold weekly community meetings. It’s not just the Monologues that they do, even though that’s the thing most people know about. They hold weekly community meetings around topics like the rights of people who are disabled, or colorism in the fashion industry, or interpersonal violence. All of these things that there are fewer personal accounts [on], to help people learn about them in a supportive, inclusive, safe environment. My role is cast member, as well as a community member. That just means that I perform in the Monologues.
Street: What drove you to join the group?
CB: Aside from my own interests in generally empowering people who are oppressed—that’s important to me in all aspects of my life—I had several friends that were really involved in the organization. Like last year, when I first got involved, my really close friend, Briar, who directed last year, was like “Hey, you should come out to auditions,” because they knew that I performed. And I was like, “Oh yeah, that sounds really cool. The mission sounds really cool.”
Street: Have you been performing for most of your life?
CB: Yes, I’ve been performing pretty much my whole life. I started in dance when I was super young. At age six, I started dancing. The company that I studied at was focused on musical theater in general. It was like, yes, you’re going to dance, but we’re also going to have you sing and act. Yeah, it was really fun, and that was where I first got exposed to it. Then, all throughout elementary school and high school I did a lot of musical theater and some plays. When I got to Penn, I was like, “Okay I’m going to spend all my time doing theater.”
Street: Do you have a favorite show?
CB: I’m completely obsessed right now with this play called Slave Play. It was just on Broadway. It was buzzing in the theater world. It’s so cool. It’s about these three interracial couples that sign up to do sex therapy through the roleplay of slavery. It’s an intense concept and the ending is very intense, but it’s also quite funny. But just a very smart play.
Street: Were you able to visit Broadway a lot, since you were from New Jersey?
CB: So, I went to New York several times to see shows and what–not when I was in high school. Since I’ve come to Penn, I’ve spent a good amount of time in New York. It’s almost every single time I go, I go to see a show.
Street: Back to the Monologues, what’s it like being a part of that group?
CB: I really, really love and value the community through V–Day because it’s probably the space on Penn where I’ve learned the most in the shortest amount of time about other people’s lived experiences. And it’s also pretty incredible how quickly I became comfortable listening to very personal stories and expressions of emotion from other members. Like, people who I may not have directly talked to—but because of the way that V–Day’s organized and the way that the board so diligently creates an environment of expression and acceptance, it was like I didn’t need to know that much about that person to feel comfortable listening to them and sharing their opinions and then learning from it and adjusting my own understanding of what the world is like for people who are not myself.
Street: Why do you think the Monologues matter?
CB: I think that the Monologues are really important because, in my experience, they’re the only forum that is unapologetically about the experiences of non–cis males, when it comes to things like sex, body image, [and] relationships—things that are sometimes really difficult to bring up in casual conversation, even with people that you’re close with. And so, not only does it provide a place for its participants to talk and listen and feel understood, it also provides a way for the broader Penn community to hear those thoughts and opinions in a way that is comfortable and empowering for the people sharing.
Street: When is the Monologues’s show?
CB: It’s the weekend of Feb. 21. And all the proceeds go to WOAR which is a Philly organization. WOAR stands for Women Organized Against Rape. All of the pieces this year are written by Penn students.
Street: Why’d you end up choosing Penn?
CB: Basically, the reason that I chose Penn was I had no idea who I wanted to be or what I wanted to do after I graduated from college because I felt pretty conflicted between the world of performance that I knew and loved and the fact that that’s a pretty uncertain career path. And I was looking at the other things that I like to do in my life and I was like, “Well, I can totally be an engineer, that sounds way more stable.” So when I was looking at schools, it was like, all right, if I wanted to go study engineering here, then I would pretty much have to devote my entire life to studying for that degree, and I don’t think I would be happy doing that. So Penn was a way for me to study engineering and see if I liked it, but also pursue theatre in a way that would still make me feel fulfilled and happy.
Street: What are your post–grad plans?
CB: I love this question, because that’s everyone’s question: “Well what are you going to do with this degree in engineering?” I want to be an actor. And my plan, of sorts, is to go work full time in a tech job in New York, and then, when I’m not at work, I’m going to be taking classes, going to auditions, and pursuing theater that way. After I get a sense of what theater in New York is like and if I’m happy and excited by it, then the plan would be to commit completely to acting. You could be very good at the practical thing, but if it’s not what you are most excited about, then it’s hard to commit to it just because you’re good at it and it’s responsible.
Street: Favorite movie?
CB: I’m going to say Parasite because it just happened.
Street: Celebrity crush?
CB: Michael B. Jordan
Street: Favorite Penn class?
CB: The Racial Imaginary class with Brooke O’Harra.
Street: One thing you can’t live without?
Street: There are two types of people at Penn...
CB: People who know what they want to be when they leave and people who don’t.