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Saint Mary’s to perform its own ‘Monologues’

Danielle Lerner | Friday, February 25, 2005

In the spirit of Eve Ensler’s award-winning and controversial play The Vagina Monologues, members of the Saint Mary’s community will join together in presenting the SMC Monologues Saturday at 7 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. in Carroll Auditorium. The Campus Alliance for Rape Elimination (CARE), along with Feminists United and the Sexual Identity and Diversity CoLT, is sponsoring this innovative event in an effort to spread awareness regarding the issue of violence against women, CARE president Ginger Francis said.

Francis, a junior, wanted to bring the message behind Ensler’s Monologues “closer to home.”

“We wanted to bring the production home to hear our community and see how women feel on this campus,” she said. “It helps show that violence against women is not only real in our world, but it’s happening around us. This is real in our community.”

The community, however, has not always been so receptive. In previous years Saint Mary’s has joined thousands of other organizations to take part in the annual V-day celebration. When an official performance of The Vagina Monologues in 2000 caused an overwhelmingly negative response from not only the immediate campus community but also such groups as the Board of Trustees, Parents’ Council and alumnae, the students took it underground by hosting unofficial readings separate from the College.

With hopes of reuniting students and administration, this year’s SMC Monologues will share nearly 30 readings submitted anonymously by students, faculty, staff and Sisters of the Holy Cross. So far, the responses are promising, Francis said.

“We were floored with the amount of responses,” she said. “We have administration behind us and have heard nothing but positive feedback.”

Students are not the only ones looking forward to the weekend. Catherine Pittman, associate professor of psychology and faculty advisor to CARE, said she is proud to be a part of this event.

“I believe that the SMC Monologues are one of the most important events I have been involved with at Saint Mary’s,” she said. “It provides an opportunity for students to reflect on their experiences in one of the most personal and sensitive realms of their lives: their sexuality.”

Other faculty members echoed Pittman’s enthusiasm.

Women’s studies coordinator Astrid Henry gave the Monologues a full endorsement.

“I enthusiastically support the SMC Monologues and their performances this weekend,” said Henry. “Women telling their stories about their bodies and their sexualities is the central mission of The Vagina Monologues, and I think the SMC Monologues continues that tradition while taking it in a new direction.”

With the first production only a day away, anticipation is mounting among both participants and the community as a whole.

“I’m just really excited about how much more applicable this is to the Saint Mary’s and Notre Dame community,” said junior participant Marisa Sandahl. “I hope, if anything, people realize that the body is not something to be afraid of. Awareness and prevention go hand in hand.”

The SMC Monologues are intended for a mature audience only, as some of the content portrays instances of rape, violence and sexuality. Regardless, audience members are sure to experience a wide range of emotions.

“I am particularly impressed by our students’ creativity and energy, not to mention their willingness to honestly and courageously write about their own experiences,” Henry said. “Some Monologues are heartbreakingly sad, some express anger and some are laugh-out-loud funny, but all help to tell the story of what it means to be a woman.”

Although The Vagina Monologues have been known to invoke feelings of discomfort among some, Pittman feels these feelings are vital in the quest for awareness and the battle of prevention.

“Of course, we are concerned about provoking discomfort,” she said. “But we know that such discomfort is necessary if we want to change our community to be more aware of sexual assault, to be more accepting of diversity and to be more understanding of ourselves.”

Despite varying views on Eve Ensler and the controversy surrounding her work, the message behind the V-day movement is aimed at stopping violence against women. With sexual crimes being committed against one in four college women, the impact of these offenses cannot be ignored.

“It is hard to face the idea of violence against women,” Francis said. “But this is about more than that. This is about celebrating being a woman and not only finding a voice within yourself, but also in the world.”

Many feel this initiative represents the values and attitude encompassed in a Saint Mary’s woman.

“Saint Mary’s women don’t sit on the sidelines and watch,” Pittman said. “They act. They lead. They speak out. And that’s what SMC Monologues is all about.”

Admission to the production is free with a suggested $3 donation at the door. All proceeds benefit SOS, the rape crisis center for St. Joseph County.