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Loyal Daughters’ gets male angle in co-writer

Amber Travis | Wednesday, December 5, 2007

A man will be in charge of “Loyal Daughters and Sons” next year when sophomore Devin Preston assumes the role of co-writer of the play, which focuses on sexuality and sexual abuse at Notre Dame, from senior Sarah Van Mill.

“I was really honored and grateful that [Van Mill] thought that I was capable of such an important position,” Preston said.

In his role as co-writer – a singular position – Preston will be in charge of any new material included in next year’s production. The rest of the program will consist of past stories from original writer Emily Weisbecker and Van Mill, who co-wrote this year’s production.

A physics and film, television and theatre student, Preston will take on Van Mill’s duties and conduct a new round of interviews with victims of sexual assault. Using findings from the interviews, he will produce the scripts for any new vignettes that will be added to the program.

Preston, a former Observer sports writer, said he was struck by “Loyal Daughters” and admired its ability to bring to public discourse sexuality, a subject he says is taboo on campus.

“I saw the 2006 production of the show and I was really impressed,” he said. “I thought it was the best play I saw that year and I felt it was a great way to bring the issue [of sexual violence at Notre Dame] to light.”

Preston became a part of the production after seeing the play in its debut year of 2005.

“I auditioned for the play in October. Then I got an e-mail asking me if I would be willing to come on as a writer for next year’s production,” Preston said.

Van Mill approached him in an effort to expand the male perspective of the problem.

“One of our big concerns about this year’s show was that we didn’t think we had enough male stories that accurately portrayed how the issue of sexual assault and sexual violence really affects the male community,” Preston said. “It was very important to [Van Mill and the other organizers] to try to get a male interviewer.”

And while a male opinion in the shaping of next year’s production is something he can guarantee, Preston said that opinion is far from static.

“My opinions and my ideas are going to go through a lot of changes during the interviewing process and when I come into contact with people who have really been affected by sexual assault and by these issues that we are trying to tackle,” he said.

Past “Loyal Daughters” productions have tried to address sexuality and sexual assault at Notre Dame from the eyes of every party involved – female and male victims and perpetrators, hetero- and homosexuals, the sober and the inebriated.

And Preston is proud of those efforts.

“I feel like the writers and producers of ‘Loyal Daughters and Sons’ – in the two years that I’ve seen it and been a part of it – have done a very good job of incorporating the male perspective and the male experience.”

Even though it has been written and directed by women, Preston said, the production has made an effort to include other angles and that organizers are continuously “trying to make sure we get the whole picture.”

And a male interviewer may succeed in grasping that picture by connecting with male interviewees in ways a woman could not, he said.

Preston said that as a writer and interviewer he would attempt to make male students a bit more comfortable telling their stories to the “Loyal Daughters.”

The interviews, which are conducted every year and are voluntary, will produce the fresh material for next year’s production, he said. The advertisements for interviews for next year’s production have yet to be posted.

“Loyal Daughters and Sons” is one of many productions that Preston has participated in since he came to Notre Dame but this production will be his first experience as a writer and interviewer.

“I know it’s going to be a lot of work and a lot of emotional strain, but, at the same time, I am looking forward to and anxious to move this project along,” he said.