V-Day works to stop violence against women, children
Joining local efforts to support V-Day, a global initiative founded by playwright Eve Ensler to stop violence against women and children, Fairfield University sponsored a theatrical production of A Memory, A Monologue, A Rant and A Prayer.
Presented in the Thomas J. Walsh Art Gallery at the Quick Center for the Arts, the dramatic collection of monologues written by diverse authors and playwrights, graphically reveal women's struggle to live freely, safely and emotionally and spiritually healthily. It was commissioned for the first V-Day celebration and performed in New York City in 2006.
Gary Lee Pelletier, a 2009 Fairfield University graduate and current resident of Brooklyn, N.Y., was asked to return to direct this year's presentation after taking the helm of last year's production of The Vagina Monologues.
"One of my biggest goals as a director was to make this piece and its material accessible to audiences, particularly student audiences, male audiences, Jesuit audiences and audiences of rich and privileged white folk from Fairfield country," Pelletier said. "Although the monologues in this piece were beautiful and deep and often startling, they still were rooted in very common and shared human experiences, and I wanted that to read on stage."
A Memory opens with a young black woman standing on an auction block that has a chain tied around it. In poetic verse, actress Amal White speaks about the various kinds of injustices and enslavement her character suffers in a piece called "Connect: A Web of Words," written by Robin Morgan.
New York Times columnist and best-selling author Nicholas D. Kristoff penned a monologue describing an interview he has with an Asian prostitute. Actor Connor O'Kane, associate director of campus ministry, recounts a moving tale about the character's yearning to take care of the young girl and her friend despite his professional need to detach from their tragic circumstances.
Zachary Tesoriero, another male actor involved in the show, portrayed a young Jewish boy who realizes that all of the women in his life -- his beloved mother and sisters -- have all experienced rape. He eloquently describes the adverse affects of living with the ramifications of the violence thrust upon their lives.
Funded by a humanities grant obtained by Dr. Jocelyn Boryczka, assistant professor of politics and director of peace and justice studies at Fairfield University, the production featured five students. Along with Tesoriero, they were Jennifer Martin, Sarah Gatti, Mary McGrath and Joy White.
Joan Grant, a publicist for the university, was also a member of the cast.
After appearing earlier in the month in The Vagina Monologues at the Westport Country Playhouse in commemoration of V-Day, Ruth Davenport reprised her poignant telling of this year's V-Day spotlight monologue about the Women of the Congo.
Davenport admitted that she was reluctant to retell the horrific and emotional tale of a 15-year-old girl's coercion into sex slave trafficking. Davenport explained that not only is her monologue "heavy," but that she also found it difficult to face the harsh realities depicted in her fellow actors' dramatizations, too.
"They are all great pieces, but it's hard to absorb," Davenport said.
When Pelletier asked her to join his ensemble, though, she is glad that she said, "Yes."
"I was so impressed with the energy of everyone involved," Davenport said. "They are all activists. This is something that they do all of the time. They really are a group of selfless young people. I am so grateful that I had a chance to meet them and be part of this production."
Although Westport's recent V-Day production was performed solely by female actors, Davenport was amazed by the outstanding contributions of the male cast members in the Fairfield show. "Kudos to the men who became involved," she noted.
A holistic healer, Davenport offers Reiki and nutrition counseling. She hopes to continue to build her business support both creative and healing arts.
Speaking the words of the Congo women over and over in rehearsal during the past couple of months has changed her perspective, Davenport added.
"I realize how important this issue is and how much more attention needs to be brought to it," she said. "This experience has brought out the activism in me. It's made me reconsider how I could participate and help these women."
Pelletier, too, was motivated by the work on-stage to continue his directing efforts and attempt to merge social and artistic efforts.
"My hope and dream is to further my education in the realms of sociology, anthropology and gender and sexual studies and continue to inject my research and work into a vital and beautiful art," he said.
Moreover, Pelletier is committed to continuing to celebrate V-Day at the university. "Whether it's me directing it personally or planting the seeds within the incoming and current students, I am committed to this material," he said. "I think it's great to return to one's roots, though, too."