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Play tackles controversial topics, student labels

Abi Hoverman | Thursday, April 26, 2012

The play titled “Playing, Dating aND Maybe Mating,” written and directed by senior Matthew Mancini, addresses Notre Dame student stereotypes and follows these characters as they navigate friendships, dating and hook-ups.

The show’s online trailer mentions characters such as “The Bro,” “The Best Friend” and “The Campus Catch.”

“If people come they will be really surprised by the content and just how intricate all the characters are,” Mancini said. “We really dove into so many different topics and issues on campus.”

Sophomore producer Blair Arbuckle said the play, which will be performed Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. in Washington Hall, covers topics such as females on birth control, eating disorders and domestic violence.

“We have one character in specific that is interesting because you can see the different sides of his mind working,” Arbuckle said. “There are two people playing his other roles … demonstrating how you can have internal dilemmas and fights trying to find yourself and trying to deal with not only Notre Dame but life in general.”

Arbuckle said despite the strong labels Notre Dame students place on each other, no one perfectly fits into these categories.

“We were just surprised by how all the stereotypes were broken,” she said. “People aren’t as one-dimensional as people think. There’s no algorithm for anyone.”

Mancini said the Gender Studies Program sponsors the play and all the directors and producers participate in the Gender Relations Center’s “FIRE Starter” program, which aims to educate students about relationships and identity.

“Many of us participated in ‘Loyal Daughters and Sons’ last year,” he said. “The producers and I are part of the creative team of ‘FIRE Starters,’ and it was our job to create a creative program for campus.”

He said the theatrical venue appealed to him because it offered a freedom and creativity to explore taboo topics.

To properly address these issues, the creative team worked together to interview students in November across campus, Arbuckle said. Mancini said he then compiled common stories and experiences to form the script, with rehearsals starting immediately after Spring Break.

“They’re real stories but none of the characters are based off of one person,” Arbuckle said. “We made a list of the different people we wanted to hit and then we went around and interviewed friends or whoever we could for about two weeks …We all came back together and had a meeting and talked about everything, all the different impressions. We took what we found, overriding themes and put them together to make characters.”

Mancini said every Notre Dame student can identify with something he or she has struggled with as it is portrayed in the production.

“The overall theme is self-love and individuality, finding confidence with being you,” he said. “I guarantee everyone that comes to the production will see someone they know or personally identify with. They’ll relate with the characters.”

Mancini said the cast is very diverse. Not all are FIRE Starters, and actors and actresses include political science, economics and even anthropology majors.  

“It’s all over the place. They were interested in doing the play and it was kind of word of mouth,” Mancini said. “I had worked with some of them before, but a lot of them were interested in being part of the production.”

Arbuckle said she hopes the play fosters dialogue about the issues presented, many of which may be completely new and uncomfortable for the audience.

“It’s more about getting it out there,” she said. “It’s unlike any play I’ve seen here because we say a lot that people keep to themselves and that people are afraid to say. We just want to put it out there and have it said, maybe for the first time you’ll hear it out loud, but then … we want you to go in your own direction.”

Tickets for the play are available in the LaFortune Box Office for $3.