ND holds `Monologues' auditions
Associate News Editor
Thirty-five women from Notre Dame and Saint Mary's arrived at LaFortune Wednesday to audition for roles in an upcoming performance of Eve Ensler's controversial play, "The Vagina Monologues."
Despite Saint Mary's decision to ban the Monologues from their campus last year, Notre Dame's Program in Gender Studies and the Film, Television and Theatre Department chose to sponsor two performances of the show as part of a nationwide initiative also developed by Ensler called, "V-Day: Until the Violence Stops."
"I think it challenges women to examine their attitudes and feelings about their bodies. It's very controversial and thought provoking. The strength in it is how it challenges women to think about and look about their bodies, so I find it a useful experience for people to have," said Catherine Pittman, faculty advisor for the Campus Alliance for Rape Elimination (CARE) at Saint Mary's — the organization that attempted a production of the Monologues last February.
"CARE will not be involved [in the production]. Every year the students who are in CARE decide which projects they want to do. This year the students I'm working with are focusing on different things and I support what the students want," Pittman said.
"While we were certainly aware of the Saint Mary's controversy, the situation here seems so much different because the play is part of V-Day and because we were considering it as an academic and cultural event," said Glenn Hendler, acting director of Gender Studies at Notre Dame. "The comparison didn't seem at all relevant."
V-Day is a nonprofit project that "proclaims Valentine's Day as V-Day until all women live in safety, no longer fearing violence or the threat of violence, then V-Day will be known as Victory Over Violence Day," according to the V-Day mission statement at the movement's Web site, www.vday.org.
To raise awareness about violence against women, Ensler permits colleges worldwide to perform the Monologues during V-Day season without charging royalties — more than 550 colleges nationwide and 700 worldwide currently participate, said Kerry Walsh, Notre Dame's campus contact for the V-Day campaign.
"I had heard about the Monologues my sophomore year when a few of my friends went to see it, but I had no idea what it was at the time," said Walsh. "Last year I was abroad and heard about the controversy at Saint Mary's through The Observer online, so I decided I needed to read it when I got back from France last year. I read the play over the summer, and that same night went to vday.org to read about the college campaign. After I looked at the Web site and considered the Saint Mary's fiasco, I didn't want it to just die like that."
"Students initiated the V-Day event in a very responsible way," said Hendler. "The play is well-respected and widely performed; universities across the country are staging performances as part of V-Day observances. Thus it seemed to me unquestionable that it would be appropriate as part of the kind of thoughtful and practical engagement with social concerns that a gender studies program at a Catholic university should be encouraging."
"I can't make any comments about what's going on with [the Saint Mary's] production, but I met with a girl from IUSB and a girl from Saint Mary's before this even got started to collaborate," said Walsh. "It's been very much a supportive group effort. I have never done this before so I have definitely gotten a lot of help and advice from the girls at IUSB and Saint Mary's — it's been very inclusive from the start. There will be girls from Saint Mary's involved in the production as well."
"As with every talk, film or performance we sponsor, our sponsorship carries no implication that we necessarily support every statement made in this play," said Hendler. "Sponsorship means that we believe the play deals with important issues that are worth discussing."
To promote such discussion, the week of the performance will include additional events such as an art show and poetry reading, and potentially a panel discussion and a campus-wide service project involving the YWCA Women's Shelter, said Walsh.
"My main goal right now is for this to be an all-inclusive project," said Walsh. "For a long time now I've felt like I'm the only feminist on this campus. I want to make my convictions as a feminist more universal. Men can be feminists and women shouldn't be afraid to be feminists. A secondary goal is to make people aware that violence against women does happen around the world and at Notre Dame and to raise money for that cause."
Mary Beth Asmussen, a junior theater major and gender studies minor auditioned for the Monologues and agreed with that cause too.
"I had never seen [the Monologues] but I heard a lot and remembered the big shake at Saint Mary's last year, so I thought this would be a great opportunity. This is a really neat project, a unique group of people and a unique opportunity, especially for this school," Asmussen said.
"I auditioned reading `The Woman Who Loved to Make Vaginas Happy' because I like the idea of doing things that are eccentric, but I've heard there are a lot of great [monologues] so there are lots I'd like to be involved in. I also think it's great that this project is tied to the women's shelter," she said.
All proceeds from the Monologues performances in 101 DeBartolo on Feb. 25 and 26 will be donated to St. Joseph Count Sex Offense Services, the YWCA Women's Shelter and a small portion returns to the V-DAY organization to aid Afghani women, said Walsh.
Walsh also said Ava Preacher, assistant dean in the College of Arts and Letters, had been instrumental in organizing the Monologues.
"I just signed up as campus coordinator and now I've become default director of the show," Walsh said. "I've just kind of become `The Vagina Girl.' It's gotten to be so much bigger than I expected it to be."
All News Stories for Thursday, January 31, 2002