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Loyal Daughters’ rehearses

Kate McClelland | Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Rehearsals are underway on “Loyal Daughters and Sons,” the Notre Dame-specific play on sexuality and sexual assault, which was renamed from last year’s “Loyal Daughters” to reflect a greater incorporation of male perspectives.

“Loyal Daughters” debuted last November under then-senior Emily Weisbecker, the author of the play. Weisbecker was an organizer of the February 2006 “Vagina Monologues” production that prompted extensive campus debate about the role of academic freedom at a Catholic university and unrealized speculation that the “Monologues” might be banned.

This year, scriptwriter Sarah Van Mill, director Megan O’Donoghue and assistant director Meghan Hartmann worked together to develop the production – which will run in mid-November – and made a concerted effort to draw in the perspectives of both genders.

In conducting her interviews, Weisbecker focused on women and their testimonies. This year, however, men began approaching Van Mill during the interview process, wanting to tell their stories.

Van Mill decided to change the title “not only because the male perspective was a critical part of the play in the first place, but also because we wanted to include more men in this year’s play,” she said. “This is about them, too.”

She interviewed as many men as possible for the production and included the results of those discussions, she said.

More men have been incorporated into this year’s piece, and male sexual assault testimonies figure more prominently into the series of skits.

“Loyal Daughters and Sons” will be a succession of skits that are “independent but linked,” Van Mill said.

All stories are drawn from the Notre Dame community, and all deal with sexuality and sexual assault. An introduction prior to the series provides background and sets up the stories, while the conclusion will feature the entire cast gathered as one to further emphasize the performance’s message.

The ordering of skits in this year’s play will be significant, Van Mill said.

“For example, a skit that relates information on post-traumatic stress disorder will follow a skit that has a person dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder,” she said.

Weisbecker’s writing from last year’s “Loyal Daughters” will be incorporated into this year’s “Loyal Daughters and Sons,” along with new material written by Van Mill, she said. The goal, according to Van Mill, is to keep adding fresh material every year, while still preserving some of the earlier stories.

About 50 actors auditioned on Sept. 15 and 16, and each received a role.

“We really needed a huge cast,” Van Mill said, “because a lot of background information goes into each story that is told.”

The production team decided against casting a single actor in multiple parts, Van Mill said, because the emotionally draining scenes could make it difficult for actors to step out of one role and into another quickly.

The cast met for a full read-through of the script one week after auditions, and individual rehearsals for each skit began this weekend and are ongoing.

The production team has also been developing its focus for “Loyal Daughters and Sons” and would like students to draw three things from the performance.

“First, we want there to be a realization of the complexity and really personal aspect of sexuality – a true appreciation for the diversity of sexuality,” Van Mill said. “There also needs to be an awareness of the reality of sexual assault in the world, and in our world, today.”

But above all, “we want it to be about healing,” she said. “That is the most important part of ‘Loyal Daughters and Sons.'”

This year’s performances of “Loyal Daughters and Sons” will be held in Washington Hall from Nov. 12 to 16.