Penn State Centre Stage’s ‘Good Kids’ aims to spur conversation

Niguel Williams, left, and Alicia Campbell rehearse a scene from the Penn State Centre Stage production of “Good Kids” at the Pavilion Theatre.
Niguel Williams, left, and Alicia Campbell rehearse a scene from the Penn State Centre Stage production of “Good Kids” at the Pavilion Theatre. Photo provided

Good Kids,” a new play dealing with sexual assault, is the result of a Penn State Centre Stage initiative with other Big Ten schools to commission plays with major roles for young women.

Penn State Centre Stage will present the play and hold related events to raise awareness about sexual assault from Nov. 16 to Dec. 5 at the Pavilion Theater.

Directed by Holly Thuma, a voice and speech teacher in the School of Theatre at Penn State, “Good Kids” explores the public aftermath of a sex crime and its cover-up. It was written by Naomi Iizuka, head of playwriting at the University of California, San Diego.

Thuma said the play is loosely based on the 2011 Steubenville, Ohio, rape of a 16-year-old girl from Weirton, W. Va. Incapacitated by alcohol, she was assaulted by two members of the high school football team. The two were later convicted in juvenile court of rape of a minor.

The assailants recorded the assault and posted about it on social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. Thuma said the school tried to cover up the rape to protect the football team.

Alicia Campbell, a junior theater performance major, plays the character of Chloe, a fun, spirited girl who blacks out at a party and later finds out she was raped because one of the assailants tweeted and posted videos of her throughout the night. One woman, Deirdre, played by Jerrie Johnson, brings the incriminating evidence to light.

“The community involved turns its back on Chloe. Was it her fault that she was too drunk? Should she have worn such a revealing outfit? Tons of questions are thrown around as a small community copes with what becomes a national outcry,” Campbell said.

Some of the dialogue is true to the case, and the play explores many themes, from rape, alcohol and technology, to guilt, transparency, responsibility and revenge, Campbell said.

One of the most important elements of the show is finding out what really happened or arriving at some kind of objective truth, she said.

“Sometimes, this is just impossible. Sometimes, we are left with loose ends, questions, doubts, fears and shame. This is when it is most important to rise above and conquer whatever is tormenting us,” Campbell said.

After each performance audience members will be invited to attend a panel discussion organized by the Commission for Women’s Personal Safety and Sexual Assault Awareness Committee at Penn State.

“I am hoping this play spurs some conversation, and I hope the people who come to see the play are encouraged to join those who are already working to solve the problem, because there is a lot going on on this campus that they can become a part of to make a difference,” said Thuma.

A number of Penn State organizations will gather 5-7 p.m. on Nov. 18 to talk about the “Good Kids” subject manner during a College of Arts and Architecture salon conversation.

Senior theater major Maya Rose Lederer, who plays Daphne, Chloe’s best friend, believes this is the perfect time to perform a show like “Good Kids” and talk about the prevalence of sexual assault, especially since students often receive PSU sexual assault text alerts and emails.

“We are just so desensitized to it at this point that it is just another notification or another email,” Lederer said. “But I think what this play does is it puts a story, a face and a character you get to know to those words of sexual assault, so people can understand what it actually means to be sexually assaulted.”

Lederer said being involved in the play and seeing the events unfold are powerful and encouraged her to reach out to friends who have gone through similar situations.

“It is the kind of thing that you don’t realize what it is and the effects that it has on a person for the rest of their lives until you really see it,” she said.