A girl arrives at a party. She is drunk. She is flirty. She is wearing a skirt raised high above her knees and a top exposing her midriff. Is she asking for it?
The University’s Theatre’s production of the play “Good Kids” brings this uncomfortable but college-relevant question, and many others, to the surface.
“Good Kids,” which will run Thursday through Sunday of next weekend, is a contemporary play which addresses a situation that can be constituted as rape. It prompts the audience to think deeply about sexual assault and its impact on the campus community.
“It is challenging because no matter how many times you hear stories like these we always think of it as happening someplace else, to someone else,” University Theatre director Olivia Dawson said. “But, statistically, it is happening right under our noses but just isn’t being talked about.”
University of Wisconsin’s University Theatre was required to perform the show, alongside the other 13 schools in the Big Ten, as part of the Big Ten Theatre Consortium’s recent efforts acknowledging the underrepresentation of women in the theatre community.
Big Ten Theatre chairs decided to create an equal opportunity for women by commissioning a different female playwright over three-year periods. They are to write a production containing a large number of female roles and based on a contemporary issue that college students can relate to.
Author and head playwright at University of California, San Diego, Naomi Iizuka was the first playwright commissioned by the Big Ten Theatre. “Good Kids” is her creation.
“I wanted to write a play that spoke to issues that were very important to university students right now,” Iizuka said.
Iizuka based “Good Kids” off the true story of the highly-publicized rape scandal in Steubenville, Ohio in 2012. It explores the story of a small town where high school football players are treated like celebrities. A high school student, Chloe (Isabel Cuddihy), gets drunk at a party and is taken advantage of by a group of football players. Meanwhile, embarrassing and shocking photos and a video about the night’s events are posted to various social media outlets. Throughout the show, the characters grapple with the question of whether or not the event can be classified as rape, and consequently if the boys should face any consequences.
Moments in the play were purposefully written to make the audience feel uncomfortable and force onlookers to think critically about what is happening.
“We want to make it real for [the audience], because [then] they can relate to it,” cast member Francesca Atian (Brianna) said. “We want to project reality in front of them so that they can put themselves in that situation, so they can see themselves in the characters, so they can identify with the characters and see what they can do to improve themselves.”
“Good Kids” also displays the powerful message of how we value others. It gives audiences a realistic portrayal of the modern day teenage world where social media and YouTube can expose anything and everything that occurs in daily life.
“This play has taught me so much about how we interact with each other, how we all interact with our peers and how we are distanced from each other given modern technology,” Atian said.
Dawson has similar thoughts to Atian when reflecting on “Good Kid’s” theme of technology in modern day society.
“I want people to realize that we are devoting more feeling and emotion to the machines that keep us connected rather than the people with whom we say we are connected. I want people to ask themselves: Is being so connected to my technology eroding my humanity?” Dawson said.
The members of cast and crew made it clear this production is much different than any other that they have participated in before. There is a clear and important message actors are trying to relay.
Cast member Ethan Larson (Connor) said he hopes the audience can clearly understand the message and their perspective, and find it powerful because it is an important topic that no one thinks about unless it personally affects them.
Whether or not something like this has happened to an audience member, the content of the play is eye-opening and can make a significant impact on one’s mind, evoking the thought: “That could happen to me.”
“‘Good Kids’ is a story that needs to be told and it needs to be told now,” Dawson said. “Hopefully, people will watch with both an open mind and an open heart.”