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Loyal Daughters’ to change hands, title

Kaitlynn Riely | Monday, February 19, 2007

With the goal of making “Loyal Daughters” an annual production at Notre Dame, senior Emily Weisbecker and sophomore Sarah Van Mill are now interviewing a new wave of students and faculty members with stories about sex, sexuality and sexual violence.

“Loyal Daughters,” a play that featured skits based on interviews with members of the Notre Dame community, premiered in November. Weisbecker, who wrote the script, said she conducted about 50 to 60 interviews to collect the information and stories she needed. Van Mill, who will write a revised script over the summer, said she hopes to do between 30 and 40 interviews, since she will not completely rewrite this year’s version.

Van Mill sent out several mass e-mails earlier in the semester to announce she was conducting confidential interviews with students and faculty from Notre Dame, Saint Mary’s and Holy Cross.

“When we first started sending them out … just the next day we had four responses,” Van Mill said.

Weisbecker said she experienced a similar response last year.

“I was really amazed and impressed with how much people were ready to come in and share their personal experiences with me,” she said. “They were very open and there was definitely no shortage of volunteers.”

Van Mill was not involved in last fall’s production of “Loyal Daughters,” but went to several rehearsals and all three shows to aid in her research of rape on campus. She decided to take up the task for next year since Weisbecker will graduate in May.

Van Mill changed the name of the project to “Loyal Daughters and Sons,” since last year many men eager to tell their stories responded to Weisbecker’s interview requests.

“Sexual assault isn’t just one gender’s issue,” Van Mill said. “[The play] still focuses on the women’s experience, but men are a part of that experience.”

Sitting through the interviews can be a difficult experience, Van Mill said. Weisbecker advised her to never schedule more than two in a day to avoid an emotional overload.

To learn how to best conduct the interviews, Weisbecker received training from the S-O-S rape crisis center in South Bend.

Weisbecker said she starts the interviews casually to establish a connection with the interviewee and then she lets them guide where the interview goes.

“I ask questions for clarification, but I don’t push people beyond where they are comfortable going,” she said. “It’s about trying to help people, not repeat the experience.”

Many people who respond to her e-mails are not survivors of sexual assault, but just want to talk about their own feelings on sexuality and sexual assault, Van Mill said. For many interviewees, telling their story is part of their healing process, Weisbecker said.

“It’s really hard emotionally, but it’s also really exciting that people are willing to trust you with their stories,” Van Mill said.

Van Mill has recorded the interviews, and over the summer she will write the play based on her transcriptions. Van Mill said she applied for research permission last week and will also apply for a UROP grant to subsidize her time spent writing and interviewing.

To reserve a place for the play to be performed next year, Van Mill needs to get either club or departmental sponsorship, Weisbecker said. Last year, the Gender Studies department sponsored the production. Weisbecker would not comment on which departments may sponsor the event next fall, but said three have expressed interest.

While her close involvement in the project is drawing to an end, “Loyal Daughters” is a production Weisbecker said she thinks should continue to be produced at Notre Dame.

“I think the fact that we sold out every night is an indicator that this is something that people want around and they want to see it because it is a difficult thing to talk about and even though it’s not pleasant, it’s good to know that it happens,” she said.