The 2015-2016 HWS Theatre season has kicked off with a production of “Good Kids,” a new work by award-winning playwright Naomi Iizuka who was commissioned by the Big Ten to write a play featuring strong roles for women as a way to address gender inequity in theatre.
Set at a Midwestern high school, in the age of Facebook and Instagram, smartphones and Snapchat, “Good Kids” examines a sexual encounter gone wrong and its public aftermath. Through a contemporary iteration of the ancient Greek Chorus, the play also explores the impact of social media on the lives of young people. Please note: The production contains adult content and language and is not recommended for young audiences.
“I want this to be a production that evokes what’s hard to put into language, what’s felt deeply in our hearts, through our emotions and what’s in our heads,” says Assistant Professor of Theatre Chris Woodworth, who is directing. “We are trying to be very thoughtful about every facet of this production. Although this play is based on real-life events, we want to present this production in an artful way, in a way that is aesthetically invigorating.”
“Good Kids” opened in Bartlett Theatre on Oct. 22 and has showings on Oct. 23, and 24 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $5 and are available for purchase at the College Store or at Area Records in downtown Geneva. A limited number of ticket vouchers are available free to HWS students with ID at the College Store.
HWS is the first college outside the Big Ten to produce the play and it marks the last production to be held in Bartlett Theatre before the transition to the new Performing Arts Center, which is scheduled to open in January 2016. Prior to its upcoming run at HWS, theatre programs from the Big Ten featured full productions or staged readings of the play. Woodworth’s production of “Good Kids” takes a more abstract approach to the issue of sexual assault.
Woodworth, who most recently directed the HWS Theatre production of “Alice in Wonderland,” says the use of the chorus in “Good Kids” is an entry point into addressing subjects ranging from cyberbullying and social media to the social hierarchies of high school. The production, she says, highlights the ways in which the chorus provides a moral or ethical framework, functions as a character or characters, and creates rhythm and movement.
“Professor Woodworth has done an exceptional job modernizing the chorus into a looming presence of social media along with its immediacy and subjectivity,” says Gail Quintos ’17, a media and society, and theatre double major who has the role of Chloe. “The chorus essentially represents the cacophony and power of social media. Its presence is a vital character in the play. It is also a huge honor to be the first institution outside of the Big Ten to produce this play. That says a lot about the Colleges’ initiative to make a difference on our campus, and what’s even better is that we’re making a difference through the creativity and beauty used in theatre.”
The “Good Kids” cast includes: Quintos, Maggie O’Brien ’19 (Amber), Tamira Jackson-Lofton ’19 (Daphne), Kathleen Fowkes ’18 (Madison), Elizabeth Strano ’16 (Brianna), Ren Workman ’19 (Kylie), Anna Miano ’16 (Skyler), Kayli Ennis ’17 (Deirdre), Luis Figueroa ’18 (Ty), Justin Tacuri (Tanner), Samuel Shaamar ’19 (Landon) and Chad Reid ’18 (Connor).
Casey Cady ’18 is the stage manager while Jacqueline Fisher ’18, Livvy Milne ’18 and Grace Vorosmarti ’19 are assistant stage managers. In addition, Hobart football team members Tommy D’Antonio ’18, Jacob Stanley ’16 and Parker Thelander ’16 provided assistance to the cast, demonstrating practice drills that were worked into the play’s choreography.
Joining Woodworth for the production are two visiting guest artists: Denise Gabriel, an assistant professor of theatre at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro is serving as movement coach and AErin Lanphear, who is serving as costume designer. The design team also includes HWS Technical Director Bill Burd (scenery and lighting) and sound designer Kelly Walker of WEOS and Finger Lakes Public Radio.
Cast members say their experiences have been rigorous and rewarding, confronting issues of great importance not only facing college campuses, but across the country.
“What is most interesting about this piece to me, and what sets it apart from other pieces of this nature, are the characters of the play,” says Fowkes, a theatre major with a concentration in acting. “Naomi Iizuka has masterfully created these people who at first glance are very easily stereotyped. Throughout the piece, each character combats their own stereotype and goes against social norms. The true beauty behind ‘Good Kids’ lies within the characters, and the world they live in.”
The production is also coordinating efforts with representatives from the Office of Title IX Programs & Compliance, The HWS Center for Counseling and Student Wellness, and Safe Harbors of the Finger Lakes to provide additional education, outreach and advocacy.
As a way to address the play’s subject matter and public discourse about sexual assault issues, Assistant Professor and Chair of Writing and Rhetoric Hannah Dickinson presented a Frame/Works talk, “Locating rape culture: In the press, on your phone, behind the bleachers,” on Friday, Oct. 23. The talk was free and open to the public.
“‘Good Kids’ is an emotionally powerful play that is beautifully written,” Figueroa, a theatre major, says. “It will take you by the hand and guide you to the truth of what really happened as it slowly unravels. This production will have a strong yet positive impact on the community because it touches upon our own humanity. It will definitely foster dialogue about rape culture and what it means to be a survivor or bystander.”
Miano says she knew right away that the production of “Good Kids” would be a special project that would present itself as an important opportunity to have conversations about a range of significant issues.
“This production means a lot to me because it provides powerful and leading roles for so many women, and it really breaks down the walls of the typical male protagonist,” says Miano, who is pursuing an individual major in theatre. “The whole production is a collective effort, without any actor leaving the stage at any time. The amount of sweat and tears that have already gone into constructing such a beautiful and gut-wrenching piece is astounding. I am hopeful that the production will be well received on campus because of the ways in which hope is instilled for all of the characters at the end of the production. Of course, the play deals with rape and other difficult topics. But what our particular production does is give a sense of hope which is often pushed aside in these types of situations. I think that it is important to think about how communities, media and peers respond to these types of incidents.”
Leading up to the play’s premiere, members of the cast and production team also created a video with music and lyrics written by Fowkes, O’Brien, Strano, Tacuri and Workman. The performance is by Fowkes and was filmed and edited by Walker.
For more information on any of the productions, contact Woodworth (firstname.lastname@example.org or 315-781-4581. For more information on the HWS Theatre Program visit http://www.hws.edu/academics/theatre/ or on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/hwstheatre.