Getting down close & personal

Proceeds from Down There go to charities geared to aiding women

Last year, Down There made $12,000 for Interval House, Dawn House and the Sexual Assault Centre Kingston. This year, the production is hoping to do the same.
Last year, Down There made $12,000 for Interval House, Dawn House and the Sexual Assault Centre Kingston. This year, the production is hoping to do the same.
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It’s uncomfortably good.

This year’s production of Down There was unnerving for me and the performances left me haunted.

The show includes several monologues that detail stories submitted by Queen’s students.

Down There was created last year after a change of name and direction from the previous productions of The Vagina Monologues.

Intended to make the play less vagina-centric and include more stories from the Queen’s community, the show was a huge success last year.

According to ASUS Women’s Empowerment Committee Co-Chair Leandra Tolusso, it raised $12,000 for charity.

“It was such a huge feat for a four-night show.”

This year, all proceeds from the show are again going to Kingston charities.

“We’re raising money for three charities — Dawn House, Interval House and the Sexual Assault Centre Kingston,” Tolusso, ArtSci ’14, said. “The Sexual Assault Centre is a big motivating factor, and they do rely on our proceeds.”

Tolusso said that the committee expects this year’s production of Down There to raise the same amount of money for those charities that help women in times of crisis.

With the stories submitted this year, there was a spoil for choice, Tolusso said.

“Some of the stories are so personal, but I’m surprised at how many people are open about their experiences because all of the stories are true, and not as many people submitted them anonymously — it’s so brave.”

Tolusso said because the material discussed in the play is so sensitive, there were Sunday sessions held every week for the actors and committee to discuss the topics at hand.

“We had one Sunday where the theme was body image, then the next week we had the Mental Health Action Committee come in to talk to us.”

With stellar performances from Queen’s students who possibly haven’t had any previous drama experience, I was blown away by the strength of the performances of such sensitive material in Down There.

There was a range of topics, including society’s view on female shaving, religious beliefs and skinny shaming. The individual dialogues that stood out to me as being the most powerful were the ones about sexual assault.

When Clare Sheasgreen sat on the stage of Convocation Hall with her hands fisted in her long hair in frustration and tears in her eyes, I wanted to jump over the seats and bundle her up in a hug. I absolutely forgot that she was an actress and not a fellow female telling me about her struggle with being sexually assaulted.

Rosemary Ly knocked me out with her performance. Starting with a small, quiet voice dictating her story; it eventually grew to an overwhelming growl as she told what felt like only me in the audience about trying to commit suicide.

Watching the show, I did laugh and I did come close to crying, and if the issues raised weren’t at the forefront of my mind before, they certainly are now.

Down There plays in Convocation Hall tonight at 7 p.m. and tomorrow at 7 p.m. and 2 p.m.

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