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Improv show examines gender issues, sexual violence

| Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The Gender Relations Center (GRC) will be hosting Catharsis Production’s “Are YOU Getting the Signal?: The Real-Life Funny Sort-of-Improv Show about Dating, Relationships, Consent and Other Important Stuff” today in the McKenna Hall Auditorium.

The show is an interactive, semi-improvised program aimed at exploring myths about dating, gender role stereotypes and sexual assault, Christian Murphy, founder of Catharsis Productions and a 1992 Notre Dame alumnus, said.

“The program contains some laugh-out-loud scenarios surrounding the awkwardness of dating and first impressions, but also provides an opportunity for candid dialogue around the issue of sexual violence. No one will argue that rape or sexual assault is okay, but many people inadvertently contribute to a culture that perpetuates some dangerous attitudes about the way we treat one another,” Murphy said. “… We talk about what consent really is and how each of us as community members can look out for one another.”

The program is aimed at college students, but Catharsis Productions now presents it to military audiences as well, Murphy said. He said the show is designed to foster dialogue and self-examination in an open and inclusive space.

“College audiences generate a great energy around the program and many really thirst for a venue to have open dialogue about these issues,” Murphy said. “Our presenters are experienced in trying to create a safe environment for this kind of interplay … With some of the comedic elements in certain parts of the show, college audiences have enthusiastically responded to the way in which we do this—the method behind the madness.”

The GRC chose this program in order to teach students about consent and bystander intervention in an innovative and effective way, Christine Gebhardt, GRC director, said.

“We want to raise awareness that bystanders can intervene in situations so folks who are unable to receive or give consent do not make decisions that may violate another,” Gebhardt said. “… [Catharsis Production’s] use of improv and real life scenarios provide a way to not only create awareness but to foster dialogue about the complex and difficult issues of sexual assault.”

The event is a kick-off to Sexual Violence Awareness Month, Gebhardt said, which will include events such as bystander intervention training, a mass of healing and a panel on the resources available to those impacted by sexual violence.

“These events are meant to raise awareness of how sexual violence can be prevented and how victims can be supported. It is important that we speak out against those who would hurt others in our community, but also educate ourselves on how we can prevent harm. Programs such as “Are YOU Getting the Signal?” teach us all how to do our part, and will hopefully launch a year long conversation about violence prevention and active bystander intervention,” Gebhardt said.

Murphy said he hopes the program will lead the Notre Dame community to be more aware of the issues of sexual violence.

“I loved my time [at Notre Dame] and things like single-sex dorms, parietals, the Catholic traditions — all of the funky, frustrating, beautiful experiences that make Notre Dame unique—certainly helped shape me,” Murphy said. “I am proud that Notre Dame is bringing this program back to campus. I hope it can spark dialogue and direction in how we as a Notre Dame community can better inform, support and protect each other from sexual violence.

“We can all continue to explore the clunky, confounding elements of interpersonal relationships, but do so with an agreed upon understanding of respect and consent.”

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About Kayla Mullen

Kayla is a senior political science major and the Managing Editor of The Observer. She hails from Philadelphia, PA and was previously a resident of Howard Hall.

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