Arts

Alum leads Ottawa’s V-Day Iniative 

Image by Marta Kierkus

When it comes to violence against women, Sandi Stoliar’s experience far outweighs the statistics.

“The numbers are one in three, and I have met in 47 years only one person who hasn’t (been a victim),” says Stoliar, a University of Ottawa alum and producer of this year’s Ottawa showing of The Vagina Monologues on Feb. 20–22.

The show was part of an annual global activist movement called V-Day, which aims to bring attention to the fight to stop violence against women and girls. Ottawa’s events featured sketches from Eve Ensler’s well-known play and a screening of the documentary What I Want My Words To Do To You.

Stoliar, who graduated from the U of O in 2000 with a bachelor of arts, has been part of the show for seven years. She’s met participants who have either been abused or have worked in an environment where they have seen it. She says each person brings a different perspective and story to the event.

As assault stories keep appearing in headlines, Stoliar  felt like there was a lack of education and awareness. “In my mind, there was a huge gap in Ottawa last year. Nobody produced V-Day,” she explains. “And, you know, Jian Ghomeshi, Cosby, Dalhousie, Ottawa U.”

So, Stoliar took it in her own hands to bring the show to the capital. For her, the subject hits close to home.

“I have been raped, I have been assaulted, I have been abused. That’s my personal connection,” she says.

She says she was always interested in theatre and music. She first began refining her craft while studying theatre in Montreal, which also provedto be the catalyst for her move  to Ottawa and to later become involved with V-Day.

“I left (Montreal) because my teacher told me if I slept with him I could finish the course,” she says.

Helping to organize V-Day has been an emotional and artistic outlet for her to spread awareness while helping out the community, she adds.

When Stoliar signed up to produce this year’s event, she wanted to take it a step above with fundraising. The team raised $50,000 one year, and she aimed to do the same. The proceeds for this year’s show went to the Sexual Assault Support Centre of Ottawa, the Ottawa Rape Crisis Centre, and One Billion Rising Revolution.

Despite the subject matter, there were plenty of light-hearted moments sprinkled throughout the process of creating the show.

“My car is filled with chocolate vaginas. There’s so much laughter, and just insanity,” says Stoliar.

“My favourite part are the women who believed in what I was going for,” she adds. “The team is unbelievable.”