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Theater professor wins community service award

By Joel Hall

jhall@news-daily.com

When Shondrika Moss-Bouldin was preparing to direct her first play at Clayton State University, she noticed that the vast majority of the students at the college and in her classes were female.

An associate communications and theater professor at the college, she also noticed that many of her students lacked confidence in themselves.

"I wanted to do something that would engage and empower students," she said.

Moss-Bouldin's first forays were not in the theater, but in law. She studied to be a lawyer at Northwestern University, working as a crisis hotline operator as an undergraduate, and as a legal advocate working on behalf of battered women after graduation.

However, a theater class she took for fun while at Northwestern put her into the acting spotlight and encouraged her to pursue a masters degree and Ph.D. in performance studies at the same college.

"I like performance studies, because it blends the academic and the artist," said Moss-Bouldin. She found that through theater, she could address topics of great importance and share them in a way that didn't make people "feel belittled or like they are being lectured to."

In her first play at Clayton State, she wanted to address the issue of violence toward women, one that has particular meaning in the state of Georgia. Last month, the state of Georgia tied for seventh in the nation along with Oklahoma, in the rate of men killing women. Men in Georgia killed 90 women in 2004, most of them gunned down in domestic violence disputes.

"I wanted to do something that would raise awareness about the injustices toward women and celebrate women as a whole," she said. "No other play does that better than 'The Vagina Monologues.'"

The play addresses a smorgasbord of personal topics affecting women, such as sexuality, masturbation, lesbianism, rape, and genital mutilation.

The play was the major grade component of a class offered at the university. As a part of the grade, the students had to research and decide on a local charity to which to donate a portion of the play's proceeds. The students chose Securus House, a Morrow-based shelter for battered women and their children.

"Securus empowers women who are brave enough to break themselves out of that cycle of abuse," said Moss-Bouldin. While she said she had not personally been a victim of domestic abuse, many of her friends had been.

The play ran from April 12-14, and April 19-20, in the Arts and Sciences Building at Clayton State. At $5 a ticket, the play raised $2,000, half of which was donated to Securus House.

On Monday, June 11, representatives from Securus House presented Moss-Bouldin with an award for outstanding community service in the Crandle Bray Building Community Room at Securus House.

Moss-Bouldin said she was happy to make the donation to Securus House, but that the most rewarding part of the play was seeing the changes in her students.

"The best thing about this was that I got to see my students grow from shy girls to strong women," she said. "A lot of women are shy about talking about their bodies and their issues. This play enabled them to do that.

"I loved working with them, because they really understood what we were doing," she continued. "We weren't just presenting a play, but we were also trying to affect change."