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Monologues’ aims to stir debate

Kelly Meehan | Monday, February 19, 2007

Inflammatory stereotypes, abortion and eating disorders were just some of the heavy issues the third annual SMC Monologues addressed this weekend.

The College’s version of Eve Ensler’s “The Vagina Monologues” drew a crowd of about 125 during the Friday and Saturday night performances. The goal, said producer Becki Faunce, was to alter the audience’s views of women and the world.

The production’s 17 monologues, written by members of the College community and performed by student actresses, touched on issues ranging from Notre Dame’s academic freedom debate to middle school sex education class – topics Saint Mary’s senior Dana Christiano said increased campus consciousness.

“[SMC Monologues] raised issues that are not talked about openly on campus,” she said. “I think [the production] allows for more freedom to express and not to be afraid of certain issues on campus.”

While junior actress Giuliangela Rosato said she enjoyed “hearing the audience laugh so much,” the lightheartedness of some monologues left senior Erin Bergman questioning the skit’s message.

“I thought that some of the skits were relatable,” she said, “but other times they tried too hard to be too humorous. The message was kind of lost.”

The SMC Monologues’ message was clear, however, for faculty advisor Catherine Pittman, who called the production an “emotional rollercoaster” – an experience that “gives the audience a sense of the strength of the intimate personal and emotional experiences that are associated with one’s sexuality.”

While Pittman said she did not anticipate that people would agree with every monologue, she said she “just [asks] that people listen, and be aware of the diversity of sexual experience and perspective that is part of this campus.”

The energy of the audience’s reactions fueled the actresses’ spirits, said director Renee Woodward, “which made our monologues even more exciting.”

“The audience responded in ways I would have never imagined,” she said, recalling a student’s father who approached her after Saturday’s performance to tell her “how moved he was by the production.”

Pittman said it was the vocalization of silenced campus voices that impressed upon her how diverse the Saint Mary’s community really is.

“When we call for monologues,” she said, “we seem to get the most responses from survivors of sexual assault, women asking questions about their sexuality, women questioning the views of sexuality that they have been taught and women celebrating their sexuality, whether it be heterosexual, bisexual or lesbian.”

In the future, Pittman said she would like to find a way to reach out to alumnae during the monologue submission process.

“Some of our best monologues are written by alumnae,” she said. “Graduates have a perspective on their experiences at Saint Mary’s that our current students don’t have yet.”

As Woodward reflected upon her first year directing the SMC Monologues, she said next year she would have a “better idea of what need to be done and how to do it.”

“I learned what works best on stage and what the audience enjoys to hear,” she said.

Pittman said part of the Monologues’ continued success could be attributed to the suggested $3 admittance donation, which raised more than $600 for the South Bend S.O.S. Rape Crisis Center at Madison Center.

“We appreciated the audiences’ enthusiastic response,” she said. “We received a great deal of support from those who came.”