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College Student Raises Voice Against Violence Toward Women

Mattituck High School graduate Marissa Russo is working to make a difference.

"The theatre was created to tell people the truth about life and the social situation."

The quote by Stella Adler, an actress and renowned acting teacher, is one that might be applied to Mattituck High School graduate Marissa Russo, who has taken her acting talents to the stage to raise funds toward fighting domestic violence.

Local North Fork theater audiences remember Russo for her performances not only at Mattituck High School -- where she was instrumental in bringing musicals to the high school stage -- but also for her dedication to the North Fork Community Theater.

Now, Russo, 19 and a sophomore at Marist College, recently produced and co-directed "The Vagina Monologues," a show written by Eve Ensler to put heart and human voice behind stories of violence toward women worldwide.

Russo, who performed the show last year, took on additional responsibility this year, as a board member of the Marist College Club of Theatre Arts.

Russo co-directed the show with another board member, Jennifer Laski -- and the effort, she said, was rewarding.

The students raised a total of $938.52, through ticket sales, where the suggested donation was $2, and a bake sale.

"I am so proud," Russo said.

The majority proceeds will be donated to Domestic Violence Services of Dutchess County.

"This is an amazing organization on our area," Russo said. "They provide assistance to women in all dire situations, includng rape, domestic violence, and abuse."

In addition, ten percent of the show's proceeds will be going to One Billion Rising, a global movement that was started by Ensler, Russo said.

"On Feb. 14, they wanted the world to rise up against violence towards women. We participated in this by wearing One Billion Rising T-shirts, hosting a small bake sale, and making a movie."

The show, which was performed in the Marist College Cabaret, Russo said, was transformative. "For me, this show is all about sending a positive message towards women. I've had, and still have, moments in my life where I have felt uncomfortable with my body, like any girl. This show teaches girls to be comfortable with who they are, and to be strong and independent women. It encourages them to embrace every part of their body and revel in the power of womanhood."

In addition, Russo said the show has global reach. "It exposes the atrocities that women around the world experience," she said. "The first time I saw this show I was completely shocked. You read and hear about women around the world getting mistreated. When you see and hear their stories being performed, however, it is so much more powerful and moving. It is my hope that there is a strong emotional response from the audience, and they are inspired to make a change in their community, or think about how they treat people in their lives."

The monologues in the show, Russo -- who majors in English literature and adolescent education and minors in theater --  said, are diverse and cover a wide range of emotions. "Throughout the show, people cry, laugh until they cry, gasp, etc. It is a really poignant collection of true stories."

Cathy Russo February 19, 2013 at 05:45 PM
Awesome job Marissa!

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