Big Ten Play on Sexual Assault Puts Spotlight on Female Playwrights
John T. Consoli
The notorious 2012 case of high school players in Steubenville, Ohio, raping a passed-out girl, then posting photos of the attack on Facebook has inspired a play commissioned by the new Big Ten Theatre Consortium, just as UMD and other campuses are grappling with the sensitive topic of sexual assault.
“Good Kids” by Naomi Iizuka will premiere Feb. 27 at the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center as part of the consortium’s New Play Initiative, which seeks to empower female playwrights and give more substantive roles to female actors.
Maryland is one of seven Big Ten schools hosting performances and post-show, expert-led discussions during the 2014–15 season, while four others will host readings of it.
“The Big Ten Theatre Chairs should be applauded because we talk about gender inequity but they’re actually doing something about it,” says Iizuka, who teaches at the University of California, San Diego. “I hope from this, there’s a greater degree of self-awareness about the unexamined assumptions about what women can write, what plays by women are about and what kind of roles women can play.”
“Good Kids” follows a group of Midwestern high school students as they experience situations similar to the Steubenville case and explores their reactions to the aftermath.
“We can read articles in the newspaper and online but to actually see something enacted on stage, live, that’s a very immediate, visceral type of reaction for an audience to have,” Iizuka says. “That may crack open, with any luck, certain parts of the discussion that don’t normally see the light of day because people are uncomfortable talking about it.”
One new play will be commissioned each year for at least the next five years. The next one is “Baltimore” by Kirsten Greenidge, which tackles racial issues on a college campus.
“There are a lot of dead white men who are published,” says Leigh Wilson Smiley, director of the School of Theatre, Dance, and Performance Studies. “The majority of audiences and the majority of students who study acting or performance are women—at least two-thirds—but most roles are for men. There aren’t enough women’s voices.”
Visit theclarice.umd.edu for tickets.
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