Stories on Sisterhood

Courier Fall/Winter 2017

By Stephanie Johnson ’19 

Stephanie Johnson, class of 2019On any given night from September to November, you could find roughly 20 Saint Mary’s women in the basement of Regina, sometimes eating pizza, always talking about new ideas and edits made to the script. We had been creating a script about Saint Mary’s and written by Saint Mary’s. Over the months before fall semester began, we collected stories and interviews from current students and alumnae.

Throughout those interviews, we found that when considering the topics of diversity and inclusion on campus, Belles past and present had a lot to say. Over 40 stories were collected, discussing how aspects of their identity—such as race, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, political affiliation— had impacted their experience on campus. Some stories depicted the good, some depicted the bad, but all were worth being told.

During the time spent in the basement of a dorm, our job as students was to find the best way to tell these stories, how to represent them on stage in the most impactful way, while also respecting the integrity of these people’s experiences.

The cast of Once a Belle in O'Laughlin Auditorium

In seven short weeks, we  worked long hours to ensure that the play we presented not only held the integrity of these interviews, but created ongoing opportunities for conversation on campus. Working with these women  with such dedication exemplified, for me, the value embedded in our College’s mission and core values. In seven short weeks, we learned from each other how to represent these stories justly, and in the process we formed a community united by that purpose.

Saint Mary’s is often seen as a sisterhood, a family, one which accepts and loves all; but in our stories we learned that this idea wasn’t and isn’t always true. Despite this, I think it is truly special and unique that as the Saint Mary’s community, instead of hiding from these failures, we seek them out and try to understand why they happened and learn how we can prevent other experiences like them, both in this production and beyond. Families are never perfect, but the sisterhood of Saint Mary’s has started a dialogue to address these imperfections, a conversation we will ensure continues on.

Stephanie Johnson ’19 is a theatre major with minors in musical theatre, English writing, and film studies. She worked as a story gatherer, helped to write the Once a Belle...? production, and also performed as Daria.