How Susan Sarandon Hopes ‘The Children's Monologues’ Will ‘Make Us Open Our Hearts’ (Exclusive)

Susan Sarandon
Getty Images

The actress opens up to ET about the all-star one-night performance featuring untold stories of children’s plights in Rammulotsi, South Africa.

Susan Sarandon is no stranger to giving back. The longtime actress and current star of A Bad Moms Christmas has dedicated countless hours to activism and humanitarian work here in the United States and around the world, spending the holidays with refugees in Lesbos, Greece and supporting Hope North’s efforts to help Uganda’s children become peace ambassadors. 

Now, she’s taking part in Dramatic Need and Carnegie Hall’s star-studded, one-night charity event The Children’s Monologues. Taking place in New York City on Nov. 13, the production directed by Danny Boyle will feature a mix of musical performances, Pantsula dancers from South Africa and celebrities -- Sarandon, Common, Hamilton’s Daveed Diggs, Andrew Garfield, James McAvoy, Audra McDonald, Catherine Zeta-Jones and more -- performing monologues adapted from the real-life stories of children growing up in Rammulotsi, a small, rural township in the Free State province of South Africa.

“It’s heartbreaking,” Sarandon tells ET about the testimony of 17-year-old Lehbow, whose story was adapted by the award-winning writer Tom Stoppard. Reading it reminded her of the firsthand accounts she’s heard on the ground in Uganda, like the plight of a young soldier whose brother was killed after he escaped the militia. “I had heard his story and I've heard other people’s stories that are in these places where the troops come in and pick up the kids and try to turn them into warriors and kill their families. I've heard the testimony of people in Uganda. So [Lehbow’s story] wasn't a complete surprise, but what's interesting is that it's a disjointed memory. What happens when you're small is that you try to distinguish between fantasy and reality and trying to give to narrative to things that can't be said.”

The real power of these monologues, Sarandon says, is the opportunity for children to share their feelings. “I’ve seen how art can express pain and optimism at the same time and how it does really help for them to tell their stories and get things out. The imagination and trauma are all bundled up together in strange ways, and I think art is really important.” 

In addition to the stage and screen stars performing at Carnegie Hall, the monologues will be performed in Johannesburg by an all-female cast of acclaimed African actors as well children from the local township in South Africa on the same day.

“Anything you can do to humanize what's happening around the world is vitally important because we have a tendency to dehumanize people by treating them as concepts,” Sarandon says of the importance of The Children's Monologues, which has been previously performed in London in 2010, and again in 2015, all benefiting Dramatic Need, which is dedicated to using the creative arts to development issues and trauma in children in affected areas of Africa. “Just by telling their stories it will help people understand their humanity. Hopefully this evening will make us open our hearts.”

The Children’s Monologues will be performed at Carnegie Hall on Monday, Nov. 13.