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Why Dallas Actresses Are Using Instagram as a Stage to Perform Monologues for Each Other

Sammy Rios, Afomia Hailemeskel and Hilly Holsonback in scenes from Femalogues.
Sammy Rios, Afomia Hailemeskel and Hilly Holsonback in scenes from Femalogues.
Hilly Holsonback

Artist Hilly Holsonback is exhaustingly cool. Whether she’s starring in award-winning independent films, treating the audience to surreal bits of performance art or exhibiting a solo show of her self-portraits, if there’s anything excitingly strange going on in the underworld of the Dallas arts, you can be sure that Holsonback is somehow involved.

And now, she’s taking over social media. And not in the way her alter-ego, a self-promoting influencer character she portrayed recently at the Sweet Tooth Hotel would, but through a project dubbed Femalogues, an artistic collaboration, among artists, friends and artist-friends-of-an-artist-friend's, where actresses send each other short monologues to perform. And it’s only for women, Holsonback says.

It all started on Jan. 26, when Holsonback posted, “I can’t stop writing tiny monologues. What should I do with them?” on social media, and three women commented that they would be happy to perform the words for her.

“So, I sent each one a monologue,” Holsonback says. After that, she began offering monologues online to any woman who wants to perform, record and share them.

“It’s taken off since then, and about half of my inquiries are women I don’t personally know,” Holsonback says of the project. "(Singer and actress) Sammy Rios, one of the first women to get involved, said to me, ‘Who knew so many women were dying to have 'a reason' to perform!’”

The rules of Femalogues are simple: There are no particular topics and no particular length that the performers need to stick to. But, because it’s a social media project, Holsonback says videos should be short enough to fit the time frame on an Instagram story. The performers are free to interpret the text without any direction from the writer. Once the videos are posted online by the writer or by the performer herself, they need to be tagged with #femalogues, to be found by other women.

“It’s just a simple trade and experimentation deal,” Holsonback says. “You perform and write at your own pace, no due dates. Let inspiration drive you. Always post the outcome, always credit, always tag so other women participating can find you.”

So far, Holsonback says that she has received dozens of submissions. Some of the participants prefer to write, while some only want to perform. And every day, Holsonback hears of new women who want to participate.

“Hopefully they come across someone’s performance or writing and, in turn, they connect and play,” she says. “I want it to sprawl across ages, languages, countries so more connections can be made and thus the network grows. It’s mobile, freeing and self-sustaining.”

One idea that appealed to Holsonback, in addition to connecting to strangers through art (“Think of it as modern chain mail that connects female creatives”) is that it’s a way to use the powers of social media for good.

“I’ve always been interested in using things in a nontraditional way; we have a great opportunity with Instagram to support and empower one another,” she says. “I’m hoping this continues to grow outside of my influence.”

And so far, it has. Rios is a well-known singer and actress who recently moved from Dallas to Portland, who got involved immediately and still has more femalogues in the works.

“What I love about this project is it’s using social media in the best way possible, connecting complete strangers and entrusting them to perform their words — or vice versa, entrusting these writers to give you something performance-worthy!” she says.

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“I was struck just by the sheer amount of women who were immediately on board — it’s almost as if they were just waiting for permission to do something like this,” Rios says. “Which is sad when you think about it, but hopefully this mindset can change.”

One of the first women Rios recruited to join in on the fun was Afomia Hailemeskel, a Dallas native and true triple threat as an actress-model-singer who moved to Los Angeles three years ago and has since landed coveted projects like Starbucks commercials and guest spots on Raven’s Home. Hailemeskel couldn’t resist getting involved and says she’s “lucky to have been a part of it.”

“I think Hilly’s project is thrilling, and a great way to connect and engage actors in the community,” she says. “It’s a wonderful way to be proactive in your craft. Being in LA where I feel like I’m just waiting for the right role to come along, I really appreciated this initiative and approach. Using Instagram as a platform provides a wide reach and you’re collaborating with people all over in this web of creativity Hilly’s building.”

Ultimately, Holsonback says, the project is uniting women in a meaningful way in a medium that often lacks substance. "I want more women to feel comfortable expressing themselves, especially creatively," she says. "One of the things I mentioned was the fact most of us are on Instagram all day, so why not make it useful?"

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