This weekend, the theatre department will debut the first show of its 2016-2017 season — Naomi Izuka’s “Good Kids.”
Kyle Gillette, director of “Good Kids,” chose this play based on a proposal from Tim Francis, lighting designer and technical director. “Good Kids” is from a series of plays commissioned as part of the Big Ten Theatre Consortium.
This initiative aims to produce and publicize plays from American female playwrights and is meant to draw attention to the scarcity of new works by women. These plays must include at least six significant roles for college-aged women.
“This one has to do with sexual assault and the aftermath in social media, and how people treat things differently. It is such an urgently important thing to do for our campus for obvious reasons but for any campus, really,” Gillette said. “We do want to put more focus on how theatre can be a way to explore the dynamics of things like rape culture, stereotypes about gender and sexuality. How we can prevent [sexual assault] and also be there for people who are survivors. And what is the culture surrounding it, trying to understand that.”
Loosely based on the Steubenville High School rape case of 2012, “Good Kids” is set in a Midwestern high school in the present age of smartphones and social media.
“Good Kids” examines the fallout on social media when a casual sexual encounter goes wrong.
As part of the marketing campaign for “Good Kids,” Katie Farrell and Liz Metzger, senior theatre major and undeclared sophomore, respectively, created a photo series depicting scenes of sexual assault.
The inspiration for the “Good Kids” promotional photos came from a photoset titled “It Happens” by Yana Mazurkevich, a junior at Ithaca College in New York. Mazurkevich got her inspiration from the Brock Turner case at Stanford as well as stories from her friends.
“Liz and I were hanging out one day, and we saw the original set of photos that came about after the Stanford rape case. We were like, ‘Hey, I wonder if we could do something like this for “Good Kids”?’ It would be a really good marketing campaign, and it would also just be really impactful. It speaks a lot to the show itself,” Farrell said.
Metzger said that her inspiration from the photo series were the accompanying quotes. Further, she like the diversity represented through the series.
“There were quotes at [Mazurkevich’s] first shoot which were about women who were just wearing bras and [having] paint thrown on them, and quotes people had said to them like, ‘Your skirt was too short’ or ‘You were asking for it.’ I really loved those quotes, but the pictures were very hard to recreate. And then I saw the ones that were after [Brock Turner] had been released early and the idea that it happens anytime, anywhere, by anyone. And I think that’s a really important point, because the show itself just focuses on drinking, and I don’t think that’s every situation. I think that does perpetuate some of the problems, and it can easily be seen that way, but it’s not just a girl at a party with a short skirt. And so I really wanted to combine these two ideas — that it’s also boys, and they’re athletes and that females aren’t always the survivors. It was mostly seeing those pictures and being like, ‘Holy shit, these are powerful. We could do something like this too,” Metzger said.
Derek Hudson, sophomore theatre and communication double major, photographed, edited and created the type for the entire photo series.
“Based on the comfort levels of the two people — how well they knew each other, how well we knew them — we’d come up with some different kinds of poses to try out. Some of them obviously are more graphic than others, and that was entirely based on who we were working with,” Hudson said. “The first part of picking which ones we ultimately wanted to release was just based on examining the technical aspects of the photos: were they focused properly, did the lighting look good, was it flattering of whoever was portrayed, those kinds of questions. And then from there it was more of an artistic decision — a big part of it, of course, was the victim in the photos looking at the camera. A lot of that was interpreting, ‘What are they saying? What do they look like?’ in this photo. For what I was able to do, I was really happy with the diversity of experience we were able to portray.”
The topic of sexual assault is not new to Trinity Theatre. In her Theatre for Social Change class, Farrell was able to explore the difficult topic of sexual assault in depth with her peers and professor.
“During the class, we compiled a list of social issues that we feel are really influential around the campus, and of course sexual assault came up. So we ended up really focusing on the aftermath of sexual assault. How do people react to it? How do you tell your friends? As a friend, what do you say?” Farrell said.
For Metzger, developing and maintaining sexual assault awareness on campus started well before “Good Kids.”
“It started off with the Refourmers, my entrepreneurship class. As the year went by, because of personal experiences — my own and others around me — it became something that I was truly passionate about. It was hard for me to talk about sometimes; for a while it was very hard. But it’s something I knew I needed to talk about to, first of all, understand my own feelings about it, and then to understand the misconceptions I had about it,” Metzger said.
After performances this weekend on Oct. 1, and next weekend, Oct. 6 through 8, there will be a talkback session with the cast as well as various campus organizations. Topics covered will include rape culture on campus, gender and sexuality, alcohol and social media with speakers from the Coalition for Respect, the Rape Crisis Center, Counseling Services, athletics and Greek life.
“We’re hoping that these pictures, just like these talkbacks, aren’t just about coming and seeing the show, but are really a way of having this conversation, which is an uncomfortable conversation, teased out. We want to make it really relevant to as many students, faculty, staff and others as possible,” Gillette said.
Performances are this Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2:30 p.m. Next week, performances will be held Wednesday and Thursday at 7 p.m. Ticket prices are $12 for adults, $8 for seniors, faculty/staff and alumni and $6 for students.