Last weekend marked the closing of the show Good Kids: Playing With Music, which was directed by myself and part of ReVamp's Education outreach. This performance was co-produced by Cincinnati Actor's Studio & Academy, a process-based high school training program in Cincinnati, Ohio where I teach movement and physical acting techniques. This production was based on the play by Naomi Iizuka. The play itself is influenced by the Steubenville High School rape case in 2012, where a group of high school students, including football players, sexually assaulted an incapacitated girl and documented the acts on social media.
“Something happened to Chloe after that party last Saturday night. Something she says she can't remember. Something everybody is talking about. Set in a contemporary Midwestern high school, inundated with social media, smartphones and YouTube – "Good Kids: Playing with Music" explores a sexual encounter gone wrong and its very public aftermath. Who's telling the truth? Whose version of the story do you believe? And what does that say about you? With the addition of pop music throughout this script, this devised musical challenges the audience to examine what creates these toxic attitudes we have today surrounding gender roles, female sexuality and sexual assault.”
As I looked into each moment of this play, a theme that kept coming up was the influence of pop culture. The world we surround ourselves with has power over us. The music, the movies, the commercials. So I decided to explore pop music, produced after 2000, to explore what songs add to the desire to stand up for your community and fight for one another versus songs that divide, isolate and insult. Songs include “Blurred Lines,” “Brave,” and “Who You Are,” to name a few. There were about eleven songs overall added into the script, and with only a piano to accompany the vocals, the audience was able to listen to each song's lyrics. This way they could start to comprehend what exactly we are supporting when we start to bob our head along without thinking.
Between toxic masculinity, women acting against one another, influence of social media, ignorance of entitlement, lack of responsibility and the surrounding pop culture, we begin to see how each and every one of us needs to take charge. After each show we had a talk back with the executive director of the Center for Family Solutions to discuss 'how can we come together as a community to fight against sexual assault?' After all, it is on us to stand up for the victims and create a world where all people can feel safe, protected and welcomed. It's through honest education and positive communication that we can create actual good kids in the world.
It was invigorating to be part of such a powerful discussion and production. It was also inspiring to have the students come in each night and share their own story and how this show had been influencing them. For instance, one of the guys in the cast is a junior at an all-boys jesuit high school and he told me that earlier in the week one of his friends had sent his a graphic video. He told me that not only did he ask his friend not to send it to him, but asked him to stop sending it around to anyone. And also looked into consent where the video, and people involved, were concerned. He said he was nervous to speak out to his friend, but he had learned that was the best way to help others.
Each of the students started to see that sexual assault and rape is not just done by a stranger in an alleyway, but something that affects most people at some point in their life. Not only did they start to understand this, they each started to speak up against assault. This is why we do what we do. We create theatre that can promote conversation and change surrounding social issues. And if we can influence the younger generation while we do it, then we can guarantee a better world that the one with which we started.
-- Erin Carr