- Worlds of More Than One:Pedagogies of Care and Naomi Iizuka’s Good Kids
In fall 2015 the Chronicle of Higher Education reported on an American Association of Universities’ study that one in four women experience sexual assault or misconduct on college campuses. One in four—that are reported. And that number includes only women, primarily cisgender identified. On my campus, students, faculty, and staff felt the world remapped by that statistic. University of Pittsburgh chancellor Patrick Gallagher wrote an open letter to our university community, stating that
[t]he data tell a sobering story: the University of Pittsburgh, like other major universities that participated in the survey, has a serious problem with sexual harassment and violence on our campuses. This is unacceptable because fear, harassment and incidents of sexual violence run counter to the very values of openness and safety that are so essential to our core mission of enabling better lives for our students. As I’ve said before, we simply must do much better.
In April 2015 the university’s Theatre Arts Department committed to producing Naomi Iizuka’s Good Kids during the following autumn.1 Iizuka’s piece takes the events of Steubenville, Ohio—the gang rape of an intoxicated, unconscious high school girl by football players, the video and soundtrack of the assault’s circulation on social media, and hacktivist intervention on behalf of the survivor—as its inspiration. In April 2015 my chair and I felt that the play, its aesthetic, its production contexts, and its content were timely, exciting, and challenging. By September the play, and the communities it might not only support, but also create, was urgent. We raised money to make the piece free to all students, from any campus or school. We initiated collaborative relationships with our campus Title IX office and counseling center, the Interfraternity Council, and the off-campus resource of Pittsburgh Action Against Rape (PAAR). Given the content of the piece, we also arranged for an onsite counselor presence, from both the university and the generous volunteers of PAAR.2
With the Chronicle’s report, the project of producing Good Kids took on additional exigencies. I was still keenly interested in the artistic challenges of the piece for me, the actors, and the designers, as well as its timeliness. As I teach and direct in a BA program, I was, as always, strategizing ensemble configurations that would accommodate and capitalize on different levels of training and experience. As design meetings began and auditions were scheduled, the project’s charge changed its shape. The process would also be about taking care, about enacting a pedagogy of care, across the rehearsal room, the performance venue, the audition process, and post-show community-building workshops.
As a director, teacher, and thinker I was interested in the ways in which the production might be more than a presentation or a representation; I was interested in how the project could build capacity for being with one another and the many worlds, to draw on María Lugones, that each space might host. In Pilgrimages/Peregrinajes: Theorizing Coalition against Multiple Oppressions, Lugones asks her readers to imagine how one’s “life is spatially mapped by power,” a map in which “all the roads and places are marked as places you may, must or cannot occupy” (8). Lugones’s formulation resonates with communities and individuals living with sexual violence, across multiple sites of difference, including gender, sexuality, race, and class. Lugones challenges each of us to “study one’s spatiality, the spatiality of one’s relations, of one’s productions and their meanings in both a concrete [End Page 295] and abstract sense” in order to clearly see possibilities for resistance, alliance, and traveling with one another to change ways of being, to access and enact other worlds. She writes that “you are concrete. Your spatiality, constructed as an intersection following the designs of power, isn’t. This discrepancy already tells you that you are more than one” (10). The spatiality of power and the idea of more than one articulated by Lugones resonated with the theme and content of Iizuka’s play, as well as the cultures of violence...