The Observer is a Student-run, daily print & online newspaper serving Notre Dame & Saint Mary's. Learn more about us.



Makes it real’

Laura McCrystal | Thursday, March 3, 2011

For freshman Blair Arbuckle, becoming a cast member of “Loyal Daughters and Sons” (LDS) helped her understand the reality of sexual assault at Notre Dame.

LDS, an annual show written, directed and performed by students, is based on Notre Dame students’ true experiences with sexual assault.

“The play makes it real,” Arbuckle said. “And especially because these stories are true stories from past Notre Dame students or current Notre Dame students, it’s just very personal.”

This year’s show, made up of 36 skits, runs tonight, Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. in the Carey Auditorium at the Hesburgh Library. Kelsie Kiley, a junior and co-director of LDS, said the show gives a face to sexual assault and a voice to survivors.

“These characters are a person at Notre Dame,” she said. “To put a face to all of these stories [shows] people that it does happen at Notre Dame, but that doesn’t mean it has to continue to happen. There are measures we can take to start preventing it.”

Kiley said she and co-director Matt Mancini aimed for the performances to show solidarity with survivors of rape and sexual assault.

“I think coming into the show we took an approach that was never taken before, and that was more a solidarity with survivors,” Kiley said. “Just to be there for the person. And I think that’s what we were kind of going with. We think that’s a more effective route.”

Mancini, also a junior, said LDS is especially relevant this year due to recent criticism of the University’s handling of sexual assault cases.

“The student organizers and actors of Loyal Daughters and Sons are demonstrating that, in fact, sexual assault is taken very seriously at all levels and is addressed not only by the administration and NDSP, but by the students themselves,” he said. “I think the main thing we want to do is educate people. This isn’t a propaganda piece. This isn’t a politically-driven piece that has a side.”

When current cast member Elliot Pearce, a sophomore, saw LDS last year, he said its presentation of various perspectives caused him to feel angry during some skits, but also made him want to get involved with the show.

“They’re good about presenting a lot of different opinions on things and some of them I vehemently disagreed with and just made me feel really sad and depressed that something like that could happen to somebody, especially at a wonderful place like this,” Pearce said.

Pearce said acting in the show this year has caused him to think more about the issue of sexual assault.

“And I think this year it sort of reminded me of all the feelings I had the first time I saw it,” he said. “And in a way it’s enabled me to think more deeply about it.”

Kiley said the process of directing the show has been an emotional experience, but the range of emotions in the show is an important part of dealing with its subject matter.

“Actually listening to the stories was really difficult,” she said. “It’s presenting the gray area in sexual assault. There is no black and white. Being able to present the emotions that go into this huge realm of gray area is important.”

LDS began in 2006 when Emily Weisbecker, an undergraduate student at the time, received a grant to conduct interviews and write the show, according to Elizabeth Moriarty, assistant director of Notre Dame’s Gender Relations Center. New writers conduct interviews and add material each year, and each year’s show has new directors and producers.

Sophomore Jessie Bretl, a current cast member, said beyond showing the reality of sexual assault, the true stories in the show are important because audience members remember details and specific stories.

“Once you hear a detailed story … it sticks in your mind and you remember it,” Bretl said. “People are always asking what they can do to help, and this is something you can do. Educate yourself. Be aware of what’s going on. Tell you friends to be aware. Literally one person saying something to one person could save someone.”

Mancini said LDS is powerful because it mixes theatricality and social awareness while remaining true to the original stories.

“I think the biggest thing is we don’t want to tarnish the integrity of these stories,” he said. “And Kelsie and I think the theatricality we’re bringing to this production is really going to flourish.”

Sophomore cast member Jack Hough said he auditioned for the show at the recommendation of his sister, a Notre Dame graduate. But once he heard some of the script during auditions, he decided he wanted to help people understand the issue of sexual assault.

“And if they go to this show, well, they have to sit around and say ‘well, who knows, it could have been one of my friends who had this story’ … and there’s a lot of mystery,” Hough said. “Everyone wants to believe that we live in a perfect little dome, but we don’t.”