This weekend, students will use art to tell a story and begin a conversation. For UK’s Department of Theatre and Dance, Good Kids is a chance to perform a modern piece while also raising awareness about a common issue on college campuses.
Naomi Iizuka’s Good Kids is based on a rape case that took place in Steubenville, Ohio in 2012. In the play, an ensemble of high schoolers narrate the story of the night everything changes for Chloe, a girl from across the river.
For theatre senior Casey Shuler, playing a rape victim has been a task that she has not taken lightly.
“It’s hard to do a character like this justice. I talked to girls with similar stories and really tried to imagine what it would be like if my sister, my friends or I went through something like this,” Shuler said.
Though difficult, Shuler sees the benefit and necessity for performing this show. According to Shuler, her most rewarding experience was an interaction with a girl who had gone through a similar situation. Additionally, Shuler hopes to impact all students, even if in the smallest way, such as raising awareness.
“[This girl] thanked me for putting myself in a role that’s so difficult,” Shuler said. “This show is important because it’s relevant. It’s something that no one wants to talk about, but it happens. I hope this show opens the conversation.”
For director Tim Hull, the importance of creating relatable and believable characters has been a focus of the rehearsal and characterization process. Instead of making the characters “flat,” Hull worked with his actors to play a character with dimensions, and one that can be seen as more than a “victim” or a rapist. Additionally, he stressed the importance of the complex relationships and ties between the characters in the show.
“These guys [the rapists] in the play aren’t just monsters; they’re good, nice kids. Even those people can go too far. I wanted to do my best to show real people and real relationships,” Hull said. “The enemy is not outside ourselves; it’s within ourselves. It’s all about how we perceive others, and I wanted to show the audience real-dimensioned people.”
Due to the difficult content surrounding the show, Hull and the Department of Theatre and Dance have partnered with campus organizations to provide support during and after the performances. According to Hull, the UK Counseling Center will be on site and have a booth set up each night of the performance to help students who may feel uncomfortable.
Additionally, a “talk-back” will follow the Friday night performance, where the director, cast members and counselors will have a live discussion with the audience about rape culture and how it affects college campuses. Hull hopes the play and more intimate experiences, including the small space and talk-back, will spark something in the audience.
“I want people to examine their own lives and behaviors and their friends. I want them to humanize the victims and think twice when they are put into party-type situations,” he said.
In addition to the performance occurring in a smaller space, with each show accommodating just over 100 audience members, the set design is simple and modern, including bleachers and costumes audience members might see today. There is also a screen included on stage that will be used to display photos and video footage during each performance.
For theatre and arts administration senior Sarah Fahmy, the stage manager of the production, the most rewarding part has been the development of the actors.
“This show requires such a psychological side of the actors. It’s intense, but it’s fascinating to watch the actors develop the characters. It’s changed from just reading the script to the most recent run through where I was on the verge of tears,” she said.
IF YOU GO
What: UK Dept. of Theatre and Dance presents “Good Kids”
When: Five showings from Thursday Feb. 16 through Sunday Feb. 19
Where: Guignol Theatre at the Singletary Center for the Arts
Tickets: $10 student, $15 general admission