Schreyer Scholars reflect on roles in recent production of 'Good Kids'

By Caroline Briselli, Schreyer Honors College Scholar
December 14, 2015

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — For Schreyer Scholar Alicia Campbell, it is difficult to find the right words to describe her role in Penn State’s production of “Good Kids,” which ran from Nov. 16 to Dec. 5 at the Pavilion Theatre.

“A girl drinks too much at a party and … I can’t even put it into a good sentence,” Campbell, a junior majoring in theatre performance, reflected. Campbell played Chloe, a high school student who was allegedly assaulted at a party.

Scholar Morgan Kauffman, also a junior majoring in theatre performance, said the play was written with the intention of being abstract and that it was based on a 2012 Steubenville, Ohio, rape case, a case in which the only evidence was video recordings and tweets from the evening of the alleged rape.

“It was meant to stir people up a little bit,” Kauffman said of the play. “And I think another thing that gives us trouble giving a description of the show is that it is totally non-linear. You never know exactly where you are in the story.”

Scholar Jake Tarconish, a sophomore majoring in theatre performance, played a football player named Landon, who allegedly took park in the assault and posted video footage online.

“There was a big focus on the act of the rape itself and how it was viewed against a popular culture, which in this case was a high school football culture,” Tarconish said, commenting that, in the play, the football team was the “pride and joy of the town.” This made it difficult for many community members to believe that these good kids could have been involved in an assault, Tarconish said.

The Big Ten New Theatre Consortium’s New Play Initiative, a collaborative effort of the Big Ten’s 14 theatre programs, commissioned the play, written by Naomi Iizuka, one of the nation’s most acclaimed female playwrights. After auditions and callbacks — “the coolest callbacks we’ve ever had,” according to Kauffman — Campbell, Kauffman and Tarconish found out they had gotten the parts and began a rigorous rehearsal schedule, practicing 24 hours each week.

“It was a pretty long rehearsal process compared to other shows that we’ve done at this school,” said Campbell, noting that the show opened before Thanksgiving break, then had eight shows after the break. “It was an interesting experience because it gave us a glimpse of what it would be like to go on tour with a theatre company, take a break, and then continue again.”

After each show — which typically ran about an hour and 20 minutes, Campbell said — the audience had the opportunity to participate in a panel discussion with representatives from the Center for Women Students, Counseling and Psychological Services, detectives and representatives from other local sexual assault resources.

“One thing I loved to see was that we always had an audience who was willing to discuss in-depth,” Tarconish said, commenting that he enjoyed staying for the panels and listening to the many pertinent questions the audience asked.

Tarconish said the play had an “interesting duality” for him, considering his role as both a star player on the football team and a perpetrator of alleged sexual assault.

“I wanted people to realize that these characters aren’t bad, they’re not the stereotypical evil hiding in an alley. They’re people that you’re friends with, they’re people that you laugh at their jokes, they’re people that you’d probably get along with if you met them,” Tarconish said. “And then you realize that a lot of what they have in common with you comes down to a few simple choices that causes that path to vary. And I want people to be aware of that so if something happens they will realize the gravity of what they do.”

Kauffman said she also saw many sides of her character, Brianna, a girl in the popular group.

“Can you just say ‘good kids’ or ‘good people’ or do people do good and bad things?” Kauffman reflected on her role.

The play’s title invites both the audience and the cast to explore the meaning of good and bad, Campbell said.

“I think a huge part of the show is that there’s a little bit of good and a little bit of bad in everyone,” Campbell said. “[The playwright] does a really good job of making all the characters multi-faceted and dynamic. So maybe we’re all good kids who made a mistake.”

  • graphic for "Good Kids" play

    Several Schreyer Honors College Scholars performed in the recent production of "Good Kids," a play commissioned by the Big Ten Theatre Consortium's New Play Initiative. 

    IMAGE: graphic by Elliot Gardner
Last Updated December 15, 2015