CWU’s fall play “Good Kids” explores themes of assault, humiliation and high school drama

Tai Jackson, Staff Reporter

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Imagine having to deal with gossip, scandal, sexual assault and public embarrassment on top of the everyday struggles of being a teenage girl. That is the exact scenario portrayed during “Good Kids,” a play about a young girl’s life, based on an actual event that occurred in Steubenville, Ohio.

A video was recorded and posted all over social media that showed a girl being sexually assaulted by one of the high school football players. Embarrassed and scared, her life instantly turned upside down and she had to find a way to deal with the whispers. The play is performed in a Greek Chorus form, where one scene may begin while another is just finishing up on the opposite side of the stage.

Patrick Dizney, associate professor of performance and the director of the “Good Kids,” explained that the play is designed to reach the local high school and CWU campus community between the ages of 14 to 25 about the issues behind rape and sexual assault. Although sexual assault is sometimes talked about during school, many young people still don’t understand the consequences such actions can have on another person’s reputations and psyche.

“I want people to realize how complacent we are in supporting a culture in which victims have a difficult time prosecuting,” Dizney said. “Victims are shamed, and so I believe this play is shedding some light on the issue.”

Dizney has directed between 12 and15 plays over the years. For this particular play, he directs a production crew of about 20 to 30 people. The crew is split up into actors, technicians, makeup, wardrobe and lab students who work behind the scenes setting up the backdrop and props for the play.

“The play is not all sad. It goes by very quickly and it’s quite entertaining,” Dizney said.

Dizney, the actors and the crew work together to bring to light the damage sexual assault can cause while also recognizing today’s easy access to social media and technology and how it impacts millennials.

“I hope people will think about [how] their actions—like the acceptance of watching porn—expedite their own behaviors and recognize the question, ‘Do my actions contribute to a culture in which things become more difficult for victims to advocate for themselves?’” Dizney said.

Dizney explained that the most difficult part about planning a performance is finding a way to get all the different departments to work together. The actors, costumes, set and makeup departments must find a way to come together and establish a common idea that they all agree on.

“When things come together it is a beautiful thing, and when they don’t, well, it’s still pretty entertaining,” Dizney said.

He continued explaining that the most rewarding part of directing a play is watching the students take control over the role and really immersing themselves into their character, giving each one their own individual personality.

Many of the student actors have been a part of previous plays at CWU as well. The entire cast has been rehearsing for the “Good Kids” for about six weeks. Most performers practice three and four hours a day during rehearsals and outside of rehearsal they are expected to learn their lines on their own and go over blocking. This equals, two to three more hours that is expected of them outside of the theater.

“We start off rehearsals with group stretching, vocal warmups and energizers which really helps with our group energy and comfortability with each other,” said Annie Jankovic, senior performance theater major.

Jankovic plays the role of Deirdre, a character with a big personality and possess a special way of stopping the show. This will be Jankovic’s third performance here at CWU.

Jankovic’s character is also in a wheelchair, so she has been trying to find the correct way to understand her character.

“The most difficult part is the context. Trying to separate the character from ourselves,” Jankovic said.

Despite difficulties when it came to preparing for the play, Jankovic believed the play is worth the effort because she considered the play to be extremely relevant. She believes it’s important for people to understand the message behind the play because it’s dealing with social media, technology and sexual issues. All of these aspects are currently happening to many young men and women everyday.

“Just taking the steps and talking about it, we’re taking a step in the right direction,” Jankovic said.

Kelsey McHugh, senior, theater fine arts major, has performed in about six plays. McHugh plays the character Madison who is the popular girl who constantly puts down other women, but is loyal to some. She can also come across very direct and aggressive. McHugh also explained that Madison is a flip-flop feminist, meaning that the character wants women to have the right to dress or present themselves in the way they feel most comfortable, yet she is also the one doing most of the ‘slut-shaming’ during the play because of how other characters are dressed.

“As an actor playing the bad guy, it’s not good to comment on the character, you just have to go for it and embrace it as thinking this character thinks they are right,” McHugh said.

McHugh also explained that many of the actors have received guidance on common sexual issues for the play from the CWU Wellness Center. The Wellness Center will attend a rehearsal and discuss sexual issues with the crew, answering any questions and clarifying any concerns, so that the actors can get a better sense of how they are supposed to portray their character’s.

The actors and director have a huge part in the play, but a play cannot be as successful without a stage crew or behind the scenes team.

Beki Hafemeyer, a theater major, is a part of the stage crew that helps put the final touches on the play. She has worked on the behind-the-scenes crew at CWU for about two years and has six years of overall experience, having worked on about 20 plays total.

As part of the crew, they are required to attend every tech rehearsal. They also come in before the rest of the production crew to make sure all the equipment is on and working properly. Many of the members have to attend lab classes and put in extensive lab hours in order to help build the backdrop. Over a period of only a few weeks they work about 80 hours individually and work 10 hours in the lab.

“The most difficult part would be making sure everything gets hung and things are ready to go before we start getting actors on the scene,” Hafemeyer said.

Lights, sound and stage displays are just a few of the many things the behind-the-scenes crew manage. During the last week of rehearsals, before opening day, behind-the-scenes puts in about three to five hours daily, but the crew has worked silently for around three weeks trying to work on all the smaller details so the play can run smoothly.

“The best part, though, is watching the plays and seeing the actors and everyone do what they do. It’s amazing,” Hafemeyer said.
Jack Lambert

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CWU’s fall play “Good Kids” explores themes of assault, humiliation and high school drama