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‘Show Some Skin’ looks to create dialogue, enhances production value

| Thursday, February 21, 2019

For eight years running, “Show Some Skin” has challenged its audience to think about how race, gender, sexuality, class and other aspects of identity impacts the Notre Dame community.

Each night from Wednesday through Saturday at 7 p.m. in the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center, “Show Some Skin” will once again challenge students, faculty and community members to think about these issues through the performance of around 20 personal, anonymous monologues written by Notre Dame students.

This year, “Show Some Skin,” received 110 monologue submissions, a record number for the show. However, only around 20 to 25 of the submitted monologues will be performed, junior Peyton Davis, an associate produce for the show, said. In order to narrow the stories down, the story board, which is comprised of 12 individuals — including the faculty advisors, the producers, the directors and other student leaders for the show — sit down and read through all the monologues.

“After reading all of them, we vote on each one while looking at a variety of criteria, including ‘How well does it fit our year’s theme and call for stories?’ and ‘What stories haven’t we heard before?’” Davis said. “That’s something that’s really important to us, because being a platform for vulnerability, we look for the stories that say something about the community that we haven’t heard before … We actually had our first pro-life monologue, so that was really special, because we got to see another perspective on an issue that at least, in some corners, becomes a little bit mystified, and it really makes for a better dialogue about such issues.”

The cast tries to take the discussion beyond the stage by discussing the issues the monologues raise during rehearsals, as well as performing monologues in classes upon request.

“It’s a movement towards dialogue,” Savanna Morgan, a junior and the technical director of the show, said. “So, come ready to engage and receive, and also expect that two to three hour discussion afterwards … What happens in the theatre doesn’t stay in the theatre. That’s the goal.”

“They [students] can expect to be uncomfortable,” Trever Carter, a senior and the executive producer of the show, said. “I think that if people don’t leave uncomfortable, then we didn’t do our job. Especially for a pretty homogenous white, straight, Catholic campus, getting white, straight, Catholic people to deal with a lot of pretty ingrained biases or racism or anything like that is inherently uncomfortable … They can really expect to leave the show having engaged with Notre Dame as the truly diverse institution that it is, and our hope is that they take that and bring it into their everyday lives.”

However, as so many monologues do end up not being performed in the actual show, for the first time, “Show Some Skin” will be creating an online publication of the extra monologues. The publication may also include monologues from previous years and videos of actor’s performances of the pieces.

The number of submissions and an online publication are not the only unique aspects of this year’s show though. For the first time, Morgan said the show will also be incorporating lights and more technical aspects into the show.

“This is the first year that we are focusing on the technical elements of ‘Show Some Skin,’” she said. “So I’ve been designing lights, sound and just the scenic design of the show. This is the first year that we have had both an artistic director and a technical director.”

Dr. Cecilia Lucero, one of the show’s faculty advisors, said the staff are trying to balance the technical aspects of the show with the purpose of the monologues.

“We also wanted to make sure that there was a balance, because really it’s about the monologue, and typically it’s been a pretty minimalist production so there usually hasn’t been any props on stage, except maybe a chair … the actors wear grey t-shirts and black pants,” Lucero said. “ … I think the technical pieces of it are going to highlight something about the piece that will heighten the emotional reaction, but it won’t take away from the story. It’s not going to be this spectacle.”

While the increased production value hopes to contribute to the show’s power, Davis said it also presents a new challenge for the crew to overcome.

“It’s a little ambitious and I think that everybody is really taking it in stride, and I think that it will, at the very least, challenge the team to make sure that it’s not just a theatre show; that it is just as intimate and vulnerable as it has been in past years,” he said.

Echoing Davis’ comments, senior Joseph Blakely, the show’s director, said with these new additions come new production hurdles for the show.

“Because we’re integrating a lot of new lighting and sound elements, there’s a lot of things that we’re figuring out for the very first time and it’s very exciting — it’s scary,” Blakey said.

“I don’t want to call them growing pains, but I feel like that’s probably the most equitable,” he said. “Over the last few years … we have grown so much just as a super recognizable campus organization … We used to have a much smaller team, but one thing we did at the end of last year was that we decided to expand our team to handle some of these initiatives that we wanted to tackle this year … It’s people just getting used to new roles and a new division of responsibility. There’s a lot of moving parts.”

Morgan said the new show’s new elements mark an important evolution in the show’s nature.

“‘Show Some Skin’ is taking a new direction as far as what it looks, sounds, feels like — since it’s not just the same minimalistic students come on, read their monologues, leave the stage,” Morgan said. “There are more added layers of expression for the monologues and for me as the technical director — it’s keeping the true essence of the bareness without turning the show into too much of a spectacle, because we still appreciate the rawness that ‘Show Some Skin’ stands for.”

This year, the show is focusing on that rawness and vulnerability with the theme “Drop the Wall,” Blakey said.

“For us, it talks about … the masks people wear, the walls people put up between each other, even inside themselves,” Blakey said. “So we’re really talking about how do we drop the barriers that divide people, and how do we stop and just listen to one another and be vulnerable with one another.”

Davis said what makes “Show Some Skin” is each monologue’s anonymity, which in turn opens attendees’ eyes to the universality of the problems individuals face.

“I think that that kind of vulnerability is something that the rest of Notre Dame needs to see and it doesn’t always read for ordinary people to realize that these are just other Notre Dame students,” Davis said. ”That this story could be the story of your roommate, or your best friend, or the person you always see sitting alone in the dining hall or the person that you see who is always with friends in the dining hall. It could even be your professor that is writing this story. That’s really what we’re trying to get people to see.”

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