Jacqueline Goldfinger’s Click, a new play about a campus rape, technology and what can happen to people caught in between the two, makes its debut next week.
The play, a production of the Simpatico Theatre, will run at The Louis Bluver Theatre at The Drake. It is being staged in conjunction with the University of the Arts as part of Simpatico’s “Season of System Failures,” and will run from March 27 to April 14.
Click, which is in the sci-fi tradition, is part feminist and part “Sherlockian,” according to the play’s description.
“Click is a very unique play, which is one of the reasons I’m so excited about it,” Goldfinger said.
Goldfinger, who teaches playwriting at the University of Pennsylvania and Temple University, said her plays often take about two years to go from conception to stage; Click, which is based on the Steubenville High School rape case of 2012, took nearly five years to complete.
Part of the reason for that, she said, was her desire to write a wider variety of characters than she usually did. She wrote characters of various races, classes, industries and gender identities, a task for which she consulted numerous readers.
“I wanted to make sure that I got all of those voices right,” she said.
Another reason the show took so long was her desire to tell the story in such a way that it was not a one-to-one recapitulation of the details of Steubenville. To do that, some distance from the events was needed. Goldfinger knew that most audiences were now familiar with how such cases were covered in the moment. Thus, she decided to set her play in the years succeeding the rape, breaking the play into sections five, 10, 15 and 20 years in the future.
Beyond fidelity to reality, Goldfinger said, she wanted to deliberately counteract what she sees as the dehumanizing process that people involved in such episodes are often subject to. People become “flashes on a news screen, or tweets,” she said, cheap imitations of the full-fledged humans they actually are.
“We wanted to make sure that, in our piece, we saw the humanity of everyone and honor that,” she said, “while also asking important questions: When you can change your identity online? What consequences are there? Should there be consequences? What’s going to happen when you’re going to be able to change your identity in person?”
Another choice Goldfinger made was to keep the character of the rapist from appearing onstage. She’s been dismayed in the past that the narrative tends to focus on the perpetrator rather than the victim.
“That bugs the hell out of me,” she said. In a way, she said, it’s her way of stamping out the name of Haman, a practice her daughters love.
Part of the impetus for staging the play now is the age of Goldfinger’s daughters, she said. Her older daughter is a student at Temple, and has told her mother about the types of parties that sometimes take place. On top of that, Goldfinger said, her daughter has had real-life interactions planned through the internet that turned out to be quite different than what she expected. That disconnect, she said, is at the center of her show.
“This is happening now, and it’s huge, and if we don’t think about the bigger picture and the larger moral and ethical questions it raises for our communities, then were just gonna get sideswiped,” she said. “Because we’re not going to stop the evolution of technology, we’re not going to stop the fact that there is violence in our world, so I think it’s better that we think about some of these harder questions and how do we answer them in balance with someone’s full humanity now, rather than waiting until technology’s upon us.
“I want the world that she grows up in to be better,” Goldfinger said.
The play isn’t all dark, she stressed. Like some of the science fiction she looked to for inspiration, Star Trek and Black Mirror, for example, the dark drama of the story is populated by real people, who create moments of love and humor that give the story a fuller shape.
“The experience we’re going for is to be entertaining and provocative,” Goldfinger said. She wants audiences to think about the play every time they pick up their phone, for it to feel like “a little stone in their pocket.”
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