Penn State Centre Stage’s ‘Good Kids’ Sparks Difficult And Neccessary Conversation About Sexual Assault
“Good Kids”, Penn State Centre Stage’s latest production, rocked the campus and served as the perfect catalyst for difficult conversation within the touchy subject of sexual assault. The play, written by Naomi Iizuka, head of playwriting for the University of California San Diego, aimed to deconstruct and discuss the aftermath of a group of high schoolers involved in a rape crime, its cover-up, and how it brought to light all the repercussions that come along with it.
The play, which had its debut preview on November 16 at Pavillon Theater, was directed by Holly Thuma. It took an intimate, and loosely-based, approach to the real life 2011 Steubenville, Ohio rape case, where a 16-year-old girl from Weirton, West Virginia was assaulted by two members of the high school football team, while incapacitated by alcohol. The case later described that both members were convicted in juvenile court of rape of a minor.
“Good Kids” mimics that very same conceptual idea, featuring a group of football players with individual personalities, several stereotypical cliques, and the one outcast, who acts as the voice of reason, connecting them all together. Presented in a “he-said/she-said” style, the company staged the storyline with tons of snarky dialogue and situations that every high schooler or college-aged student could easily empathize with.
The plot line revolves around a party one of girls hosts, where Chloe, (played by junior theater performance major Alicia Campbell) an animated and vibrant character who is the victim of the eventual sexual assault, decides to visit. During the outing, she has entirely too much to drink and blacks out. Later on, she finds out that she was raped, not by her friends relaying the message, but through posts on social media platforms made by one of her attackers.
Like the Steubenville rape case, “Good Kids” proved sexual assault cases are taken too lightly, and that covering it up and forgetting about it is the easiest coping mechanism, not just for the rapist, but also for the victim. The friend groups, and their respective community, turn their backs on Chloe’s awful attack and treat it as if it isn’t as detrimental as it sounds – that she brought it all upon herself in the way she acted the first place, and that it was all her fault. They bring up victim-blaming questions such as “Was she too drunk?”, “Was she asking for it?”, “A whore always a whore!”, and so on.
The play embodies tons of important themes, such as friendship, confusion, responsibility, guilt, and emotional destruction and chaos. “I’m hoping it will spark conversation amongst the students since it is such an important topic and something that we get notified of on a weekly basis,” Assistant Director Meaghan Sniegowski said. “But no one is saying anything, no one talks about it and everyone just ignores the text, so our hopes are to actually get people aware of the situation.”
Sniegowski also went on to talk about how the Penn State campus has become desensitized to the PSUAlert texts constantly buzzing students’ phones. “I think that we all see those texts and we just delete them, and we don’t think about the people behind the texts,” Sniegowski said. “[Good Kids] walks the line of controversial and conversational, something that needs to be talked about, and we definitely try to force a reaction.”
Senior Musical Theater major Brinie Wallace, who plays the morally-based character, Skyler discussed how her role depicts how everyone wishes they’d react in a case as dehumanizing as sexual assault or rape. “I feel like when you hear this type of story, when you see this type of story, this is what kind of boils in your stomach,” Wallace said. “It’s the humanity that most all of us, I pray, have.”
Penn State Centre Stage will present “Good Kids” November 16 through December 5 in the Pavilion Theatre. You can purchase tickets online here.