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SMC hosts Ensler-like production

Kelly Meehan | Friday, February 17, 2006

The Saint Mary’s community will unite to promote campus awareness of sensitive issues like rape and violence against women this weekend during two performances of the SMC Monologues – its personal adaptation of Eve Ensler’s “The Vagina Monologues,” which has not been held on campus since 2004.

The SMC Monologues mirrors the format of “The Vagina Monologues,” but each monologue is a personally written reflection of the experiences of Saint Mary’s students, faculty, staff and Sisters of the Holy Cross.

Campus Alliance for Rape Elimination (CARE) president and SMC Monologues producer Ginger Francis said “The Vagina Monologues” was held on the Saint Mary’s campus between 2000 and 2004, but students decided the SMC Monologues was a more appropriate production given its closer connection to the Saint Mary’s community.

This is the second consecutive year CARE, Feminists United and Straight and Gay Alliance (SAGA) have produced this event, which is designed to increase campus activism and awareness in the prevention of sexual assault against women.

Francis said the overwhelmingly positive response she received last year from the College administration and members of the campus community prompted her to make the SMC Monologues an annual College event.

“The performance is very powerful and we received a great response,” she said. “These are stories for us, created for us, performed by us, performed by real women who tell real stories.”

Vice President of Student Affairs Linda Timm, who attended last year’s performance and plans to go again this year, said the SMC Monologues have proven to be a “powerful experience” of stories from the Saint Mary’s community.

“These individuals are willing to share their experiences, their issues and, in some instances, their pain with us,” she said. “That takes courage and a great deal of faith that in sharing their stories, it may help someone else.”

A 10-person board comprised of students, faculty, staff and sisters selects approximately 25 monologues for the performance and then reviews the submissions, which include a variety of genres from poetry to essays.

CARE faculty advisor and College psychology professor Catherine Pittman said not only do the SMC Monologues allow for a more intimate look at campus issues, but they also showcase the students’ superior writing skills.

“[Saint Mary’s] is a place that has a strong focus on writing,” she said. “Writing expertise is a strong characteristic of our students … and I think we sometimes take for granted that we get so many people to respond [to our request for monologues].”

Francis said the idea for the SMC Monologues stemmed from the worldwide V-Day campaign, which dedicates February to activism targeting violence against women.

“We really wanted to do activism work focused on the experiences of Saint Mary’s women,” she said. “The Monologues reflect the deep, personal issues within the Saint Mary’s community.”

The 27 actresses in this year’s production will each read one of the selected monologues, and Francis said no one will recite her own submission.

Center for Women’s Intercultural Leadership [C.W.I.L.] research analyst and Monologues actress Joy Evans said her participation in the SMC Monologues allows her to get involved with students who are proactive in changing the College community.

“It’s really been a phenomenal process both years to watch students develop their own voice and become empowered to speak out on challenging issues,” she said. “It’s also a real honor to be able to give voice to a fellow SMC woman’s experiences.”

Senior SMC Monologues actress Stephanie Snyder said she performs to help break the “violence of silence” and acknowledge that no one is alone in his or her personal struggles.

“The power of presence is what makes the monologues different than any other publication [at] Saint Mary’s,” she said. “The presence of the women on stage combines with the presence of the women they are reading for to create a space in which all feel sorrow, joy, embarrassment, pain and, most importantly, healing.”

Francis said she believes that the College is one of the first in the nation to create a version of Ensler’s “Monologues” written solely by the members of the immediate community – a fact that is gradually confirmed through SMC Monologues’ coverage in “Women in Higher Education” and discussion at national educational conferences.

Francis is creating a documentary about the SMC Monologues’ production process and said she hopes it will serve as an instructional tool for other communities who wish to create their own version.

“I hope to premier my documentary in April,” she said. “I also will hopefully present it at my next [educational] conference in Wisconsin.”

But for now Francis is focused on this weekend’s performances at 7 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday in Carroll Auditorium. She said she hopes to surpass last year’s $600 donation – raised from the $3 admission fee – made to S.O.S., the local rape crisis center.

“When you walk out of the SMC Monologues, you’ll be changed forever,” she said. “The axis in which you live [will be] shifted … it will open your eyes and shift your thinking.”

Snyder said she too wants the audience to experience a change in their thoughts and attitudes after viewing the performance.

“I hope the audience feels uncomfortable at times, sad at times and happy at times,”she said. “The overall effect is that there is one monologue that each person in the audience resonates with. [But] mostly I hope they take from it that we are strong, effective, powerful women and we will not be silenced.”