The Annual Freshman Theatre Project is back and the performance is sure to make headlines. The first commissioned play that meets the criteria of the Big Ten Theatre Consortium’s New Play Initiative, Good Kids, written by Naomi Iizuka, is coming to Colorado State University. This play will get the audience thinking about prevalent social issues as it impacts the world of females in theatre.
Within the collegiate theatre industry, a majority of plays are written by males with prominent male leading roles. However, the theatre realm has set out to change this by developing the Big Ten Theatre Consortium’s New Play Initiative. Made up of fourteen theatre department heads at Big Ten Conference schools, including the University of Michigan, University of Wisconsin, Penn State University, and the University of Nebraska, in 2014 the consortium launched a special initiative to support female playwrights and provide female theatre students with stronger roles.
Since then, the New Play Initiative has commissioned, produced, and publicized a series of plays; the first commission went to Naomi Iizuka, one of the nation’s most acclaimed young authors and head of playwriting at the University of California-San Diego. Her provocative play, Good Kids, explores, in her words, “a casual sexual encounter gone wrong and its very public aftermath.”
In an interview with Playscripts, an independent publisher of new plays and musicals, Iizuka, stated that she had been following a number of sexual assault cases and the social structures that surrounded them. “I was struck by what I perceived to be these strangely retrogressive and toxic attitudes around gender roles and female sexuality that were coming to the surface in how people talked about sexual assault, how they framed the subject, how they talked about the young women and men involved. It was these assumptions and attitudes that were the starting point for me.”
Unfortunately, sexual assault cases happen too frequently, and the one Iizuka was most moved by was the Steubenville rape case, which made national headlines in 2012-2013. This story depicts how a teen girl attended a high school party in her small, mid-western town and cannot remember what happened. At school, everyone is talking and tweeting about it. Who's telling the truth? Whose version of the story do you believe? And what does that say about you?
In an American Theatre Magazine interview, Iizuka stated, “There’s an enormous energy around the issue of sexual assault and what to do on campus. You don’t solve a problem like sexual assault with anything other than a deep shift in attitude, and a deep shift in attitude happens conversation by conversation, in dorm rooms, parties, and rehearsal halls.”
Prompting discussion around these issues, while furthering awareness around the role of female playwrights and actors, seven of the Big Ten universities staged full productions of Good Kids during the previous academic year. Now, directed by Dr. Laura Jones, CSU Theatre will perform Good Kids for the Annual Freshman Theatre Project, March 3-5 in the Studio Theatre at the University Center for the Arts. The performances are free, though booking your ticket through CSUArtstickets.com is recommended due to limited seating capacity.
In the words of Iizuka, “If audience members leave a performance thinking and talking about this subject, I consider that a good thing.” As this play is redefining the theater industry, it is sure to leave the audience thinking, and provoke social change in the process.
Tickets for the performance are no charge for Full-fee paying CSU students, $1 for youth (under 18), and $12 for the public. Tickets are available at the University Center for the Arts (UCA) ticket office in the UCA lobby Monday through Friday, 3:30-5:30 p.m. and 60 minutes prior to performances, by phone at (970) 491-ARTS (2787), or online at www.CSUArtsTickets.com.