Thursday, September 8, 2016

Good Kids: a note from the director

Rehearsals are underway. This is a very challenging play for a number of reasons (not the least of which is the ridiculously short rehearsal period!).

Trigger warning: Good Kids deals with the aftermath of a sexual assault.

Naomi Iizuka wrote the play in response to the events that took place at a high school in Stuebenville, OH in 2012. (Click here for more information about this case.) But the Steubenville case is by no means an isolated incident. Vanderbilt University, Stanford University. Maryville, Missouri. Baylor University. Sexual assaults happen every day in every corner of the world. And in many, many cases, the perpetrators walk, particularly if they enjoy privilege. Just Google "Brock Turner" if you don't believe me.

Good Kids explores many sides of this complicated issue. The characters are, quite honestly, good kids. Good kids who make a very, very bad decision. Chloe, the girl who is assaulted, is no angel. She is promiscuous and drinks to the point of inebriation. I feel like the purpose of this play is to start a conversation and hopefully to reveal some truths, even if they're ugly. We will be holding talk backs after every performance because we think our audiences are going to need to talk. The cast will need to talk.

As the director, I'm having many sleepless nights about this play, and I'm particularly worried about how the actors are handling this tough material. Four of the nicest young men I have ever met are playing characters who participate in an incredibly unsavory and sickening event. (Don't worry: the audience doesn't see the assault.) Three of the nicest young women I have met are playing characters who say lines that blame the victim, claiming she was "asking for it." A sweet, brave young woman plays Chloe, the girl who is assaulted. Every night I leave rehearsals with a bad feeling in the pit of my stomach. After the first read-through, no one looked anyone else in the eye.

So why do we do this to ourselves? Why this play? Why now?

After our first table read, I was ready to bail. It was too hard, too close to home, too sickening. Maybe we ought to do some nice, safe Neil Simon. But Harmonie Rose, who plays Skyler, said emphatically, "We have to do this. Chloe deserves justice." We owe it to our fictional Chloe and ALL the Chloes out there who have gone through something like this. 

It doesn't matter how much you drink, how short your skirt is, how much you flirt. Sexual assault is wrong. The end. No one deserves it. We have to start the conversation. The more this issue is brought into the forefront, the more things will eventually change. I believe that. Monsters like Brock Turner should not be allowed to walk free, and eventually they won't.

I'm grateful to Alyssa from the City College Mental Health Center for attending rehearsals and providing the cast with useful resources. I am grateful to my assistant director Isaac, who sees things that I don't and helps to shape this piece and tell this story. I am sure that this show will provoke strong reactions and maybe even dredge up long-dormant memories for some audience members, and I'm sorry for that. But I still think it's the right show at the right time.

I am in awe of our cast members who are embracing this play. Bekah Church, Sarah David, Ariss Fitch, Harmonie Rose, Natalia Maggio, Stephanie Robles, Estefania de la Torre, Jessica Bravo, Camrie Blatnica, Bruno Balanzar, Cesar Magana, Julian Martinez, Daniel Sosa-Porter, and Andrew Pacheco are brave individuals and it's a privilege to go share this journey with them. (And shout out to our stage manager Mashan Tucker--you're a rockstar!)

So come see Good Kids. And stay for the talk back. It may piss you off. I hope it moves you to action. I hope it makes you angry, not hopeless.

September 30 - October 9. Tickets at Thanks for reading.