Some of the LSU students thought Naomi Iizuka was exaggerating.
Her “Good Kids” drama seemed far-fetched, crossing the line even for people with a social media addiction. But someone did cross that line, and the evidence can still be found on the Internet.
“It wasn’t until I started looking up the case and learned that it was a real story that I realized that it wasn’t far-fetched at all,” says Maja Dupas, who plays Deirdre, the wheelchair-bound editor in “Good Kids,” which LSU Theatre opens Wednesday in the Reilly Theatre.
“The tweets are still online,” adds Laine Korn, who plays the main character, Chloe. “It’s brutal.”
Iizuka’s 2014 play is based on the Aug. 11, 2012, Steubenville High School rape case in Ohio, when a high school girl who had too much to drink was publicly and repeatedly sexually assaulted by her peers, some of whom were on the football team.
At least one of the assailants recorded the incident on his phone and shared it on Facebook, Twitter and in text messages. The legal proceedings prompted a national conversation about rape and rape culture.
LSU Theatre has transformed the Reilly Theatre into a school yard for “Good Kids,” which follows the fictional story of Chloe, who is raped by a gang of football players while she’s passed out drunk. Chloe not only awakes to the realization that her body has been violated and battered but that her gang rape has gone viral.
Then come the repercussions and rumors.
“We’re all good kids, every single one of us,” says one of the female characters while her peers’ vicious texts and social media posts are projected on the stage’s backdrop of small screens.
Deirdre, Dupas’ character, tells the story through her blog. She isn’t a student at the school, but she watches, and she won’t let the incident go.
“There’s a reason she stays on this story,” Dupas says. “Everyone learns why in the end. It’s a sensitive story, but she doesn’t let her emotions get in the way. She handles it on her own.”
Dupas, formerly of Los Angeles, and Korn, who’s from New Orleans, are both senior theater majors.
“When I did research on what happened and saw the tweets, videos and posts still online, I started thinking about what I would have done if this had happened to me,” Korn says. “It’s horrible, but it’s real, and it happened. And it allowed me to get into Chloe’s head.”
Trey Tycer, a junior theater major from Slidell, plays star quarterback Conner, a character based on Steubenville football player Trent Mays, who was convicted in juvenile court.
“He committed rape, yet he was tried as a juvenile, and that record is wiped clean once you’re an adult,” Tycer says. “He received a college football scholarship in Ohio. In the play, the football players treat it like a joke. They didn’t know her, and they thought it was funny.”
“Good Kids” debuted as part of the Big Ten Theatre Consortium’s New Play Initiative, which focuses on strong female roles. In 2014, it played a circuit of schools in the Big Ten athletic conference, from which the consortium takes its name.
Now, “Good Kids” is branching out as theater companies and schools outside the conference stage it.
“We were aware of the play for a year before we chose to schedule it,” director Rick Holden said. “I recalled vividly the news cycle that ran around this story, and it coincided with the issue of sexual assaults on college campuses.”
Still, not everything in this story is tragic.
“There are lighter moments in the story,” Holden says. “There has to be. And we have to have times when we’re having fun on the set. We have to have that balance when we’re doing a play like this, because it’s a tough subject.”