Show explores gender issues
Emily McConville | Thursday, March 19, 2015
Loyal Daughters and Sons (LDS), an annual student performance of stories about gender issues, sexuality, relationships and religion at Notre Dame, will begin Thursday in the Hesburgh Library.
The production, sponsored by the Gender Studies Program, features skits and monologues based on anonymous interviews with students. The performance is meant to tell those students’ stories, many of which involve sexual assault or discrimination based on sexual identity, co-producer and senior Monica Daegele said.
“We all know the statistics about how many people report [sexual assault],” Daegele said. “We all know the statistics about how many people suffer from discrimination because of their sexual orientation. Our main goal is to give the student body the ability to really pay tribute to those experiences and to understand their impact.”
The theme of this year’s performance, sponsored by the Gender Studies program, is “Victim:Survivor,” which co-producer and senior Michael Nolan said reflects an ongoing process of healing.
“We want to highlight the path someone might take to leave identifying themselves as a victim and move on to identifying themselves in a more powerful way, as a survivor,” he said.
The performances depict a variety of scenarios and viewpoints, senior and LDS director Zachary Wendeln said.
“It’s an attempt to balance perspectives,” he said. “We’re not getting the same perspectives or the same issue repeated. There’s one monologue given by a priest about his take on sexuality and his understanding of it.”
Preparations for LDS began last semester, when Daegele and Nolan conducted interviews and gathered written submissions of students’ stories and thoughts. Over winter break, they put together the material for the show, and they and Wendeln held auditions rehearsals in January and February.
While each skit or monologue is based on true stories, the way the interviews are incorporated into the production depends on the nature of the interview and the theme of the LDS production. Nolan said this year’s production includes stories performed in previous years, as well as 10 new stories based on interview material from this year and past years.
Daegele said some stories are based on a single interview. Other stories combine several interviews, or a single interview could be the basis for several stories.
The interviews are often a “cathartic process” for the interviewees, Daegele said.
“We had a series of questions that we can ask them, so some individuals want to go through the questions and answer the questions, and for others, they’ll just talk,” she said. “It’s definitely just a way to talk about their experience in a safe environment with a third party with anonymity and confidentiality. It’s extremely helpful and cathartic for those individuals.”
Daegele said the point of the production is “to raise awareness and to witness the experience of the individual.”
“It’s a profound tool for empathy,” she said.
The show’s actors as well as the audience are encouraged to understand and empathize with the stories shared, Wendeln said.
“One thing that I’ve stressed with the actors is that it’s not actors or acting, so much as immersing yourself into these experiences and treating them with the respect and dignity and truth which they deserve and from which they come,” Wendeln said. “It’s all coming from a place of truth and reality.”
Sophomore Victoria Velasquez said she got involved in LDS this year after participating in Show Some Skin, a monologue show about differing identities.
“I’m really passionate about gender issues, so when I saw information about LDS, I thought it was the perfect way to apply what I’d learned in Show Some Skin and do the same thing as I had done in Show Some Skin, but strictly related to gender issues,” she said.
Velasquez said she auditioned for the production with “Touchdown Jesus,” an LDS monologue about a student who was raped by a football player.
“Just hearing that made me very emotional, knowing that someone you could be sitting next to in the dining hall has gone through such a horrible experience,” she said.
For this year’s show, Velasquez will give a different monologue, which she said she believes is a word-for-word submission, though because the source material is confidential, she can’t be certain.
She said working with student actors and producers has been encouraging.
“I’m really passionate about talking about inequality amongst genders, but there are a lot of things I see on campus with my friend groups that I just ignore because it’s just the norm here,” Velasquez said. “I feel personally there’s not much I can ever do to change the gender relations on campus, but I think it’s great that there’s a group of people that’s willing to put in so much time and effort into bringing awareness to these issues.”
Nolan said the show provides a safe space to talk about gender issues, relationships and sexuality.
“A lot of people go through issues like these at Notre Dame end up hating Notre Dame, or feel they don’t belong because the institution hurt them in such a bad way,” Nolan said “… This show tells them that there are people here who listen to you, who empathize with you, who feel the same things you feel. It’s okay, it’s a place for your story to be, and it will be heard.”
The performance will take place in the Carey Auditorium of the Hesburgh Library at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Tickets are $3 for Notre Dame, Saint Mary’s and Holy Cross students and $5 for non-students.