Thursday, October 22, 2020

Big Ten universities encourage strong female roles for college actresses

December 8, 2014

Big Ten universities are taking steps to address the lack of strong female roles available to college actresses by commissioning new plays by female playwrights as part of the Big Ten Theatre Consortium's New Play Initiative.

The first commissioned play, "Good Kids" written by Naomi Iizuka, is loosely based on the Steubenville rape case of 2012, Master's of Fine Arts acting graduate and director of MSU's staged reading of "Good Kids" Carolyn Conover said. The catalyst of the story is a young girl's sexual assault by a group of male athletes at a high school party, and the event is expanded by students' use of social media.

"That, for me, is what makes this story truly tragic," Conover said. "The insensitive and disrespectful way that students just broadcast another student's life and privacy — and how quickly and easily it happens." 

Conover said in 2010, the chairs of the Big Ten Theatre Consortium, made up of theatre department heads, decided there was an underrepresentation of contemporary female playwrights and a lack of good, age-appropriate leading roles for young female actors. They created the New Play Initiative in hopes of encouraging more substantial and challenging roles for actors like their own students. 

The initiative is outlined for a three-year plan in which every member of the Big Ten will present the works of the commissioned playwrights in some way on campus, Conover said. That could be in the form of a private workshop, a scene study in classes, a fully produced production or a staged reading, as MSU is doing. If successful, the consortium will expand it into a 10-year project.

Conover said a staged reading is meant to focus on the story and not the performance. Actors will have scripts in hand, there will be no lighting or costumes and very minimal blocking. Staged readings are a chance for plays that are still in the process of being written to be heard and for the arc of the story to be examined. 

"Plays are written to be heard," Conover said. 

This reading features 13 Department of Theatre undergraduates, said Conover, who is excited to give them the script because "that is who this play is written for." Every student at MSU is going to know the characters, she said. 

"I think it would be impactful for undergrads and especially young students to see," Conover said. "It is a play that is happening now, in this moment... (it is) so timely and topical." 

MSU's staged reading of "Good Kids" will be tonight at 7 p.m. in Studio 60 in the Auditorium. It is open to the public and free of charge. 

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