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A Tradition of Hope, Healing and Dialogue

Brenna Williams | Thursday, March 1, 2012

The topic of sexuality is still taboo on Notre Dame’s campus. Since 2006, the Gender Studies Program has sponsored “Loyal Daughters and Sons,” (LDS) a student written, directed and produced play based on issues surrounding sexuality and sexual assault.

Sophomore Andrew Tatis, this year’s director, said why he thinks LDS is an important tradition for the Notre Dame community.

“I have always thought about theater as an amazing medium to show beauty and truth in ordinary life — a way to express the untold or unseen,” Tatis said.

The play, with a script that changes every year, is designed to bring these topics to the student body’s attention.

The producer, junior Athena Hughes, said, “The goal is to draw attention to the silence that too often surrounds the issue of rape and sexual assault, as well as promote awareness of the diversity of students’ experiences and beliefs. In so doing, we hope to break the silence and foster discussion and dialogue.”

The production team has been working on this year’s show since the fall, when senior Tara Duffy and junior Jodie Sullivan, this year’s writers, began compiling the script by conducting interviews with volunteers.

“Some of our interviewees might recognize their exact words in the scenes, and others were used as inspiration, and sometimes combined with other interviews,” Sullivan said. “The interviews were incredibly poignant. I am in total awe of the honesty of the individuals I interviewed. It is not an easy thing to tell your story, no matter what your point of view is, to a stranger with the knowledge that it will somehow be performed.”

The team worked together to finalize the script and direction of the show.

“This year’s performance includes female and male survivors of sexual assault, and deals with difficult questions of responsibility and presumptions. It also portrays students’ experiences and ideas about marriage plans, sexual orientation, when to have sex, the role of religion, self esteem, intimacy, and love,” Hughes said.

Each year, LDS features new scenes as well as scenes from previous years’ shows. This year, the scene “Unicorn” has received a high-tech facelift, exemplifying the idea that the show is continually changing.

Additionally, new scenes, like “Explaining,” illustrate the commitment to including different experiences and voices.

In addition to being shorter and more varied than past performances, Tatis said there was an effort to make sure the material resonated with the audience.

“LDS always aims to give voices to those who have been silenced. I hope every member is able to connect to at least one of the scenes or characters in a very personal way,’ Tatis said.

There’s no denying LDS is a uniquely Notre Dame tradition, Sullivan said.

“There is no other project like this at any university, anywhere. Every year, people come up to us and thank us, and tell us that it helped them heal from similar things that have happened to them,” Sullivan said.

“It’s a bit of an emotional roller coaster, because while much of it deals with painful experiences, there are also stories of hope, love, joy, even humor.

The fact that every character that you see onstage is based on a real person who is or was at one time a Notre Dame student also sets it apart from other shows,” Hughes said.

The show not only sparks thought, but also encourages healing, Sullivan said.

“Every year, people come up to us and thank us, and tell us that it helped them heal from similar things that have happened to them,” Sullivan said.

“I wanted to make this play a healing experience for the cast members, the people being portrayed, and members of our ND community,” Tatis said.

Every person involved with the show is dedicated to encouraging the contemplation and dialogue within the Notre Dame community, Sullivan said.

“We have worked really hard to make it so that everyone can relate to it, and we would love for people to come and watch and share this with us,” Sullivan said.

“Loyal Daughters and Sons” runs until March 3rd at 7:30 p.m. in the Cary Auditorium of Hesburgh Library. Tickets are $1 for students, $3 for non-students and can be purchased at the door or the LaFortune Box Office.

Contact Brenna Williams at