Prep School Privilege: A Closer Look at Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa's 'Good Boys,' Opening Sunday at The Pasadena Playhouse

Published : Tuesday, June 25, 2019 | 5:33 AM

Playwright Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa

Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa wants to take down the privileged cultures of the past and hopes that the play he wrote, “Good Boys,” which opens Sunday at The Pasadena Playhouse, will help pave the way.

Aguirre-Sacasa wrote “Good Boys” as his retort to his youth spent at a prep school, where he got first-hand experience on life among the upper classes.

The play illustrates the morass of moral issues that emerges when student Brandon Hardy is discovered to have filmed himself having sex with a female student at a distinguished private prep school. The play is relevant today, as it centers around stories in the news related to “cultures of privilege,” Aguirre-Sacasa said.

While Aguirre-Sacasa may have grown up in a high-class environment, he has grappled with inequality of society’s hierarchy for many years. He has carved out an impressive career for himself, as a creative mind who has worked with Marvel as well Archie Comics, where he is chief creative officer.

But the privilege of the few has remained with him since school days. The mentality that goes with that privilege is something that has been instilled for hundreds of years, he said.

“Part of the appeal of these places is that they don’t change,” said Aguirre-Sacasa. “And the values that were taught a hundred years ago are still taught, for the good and the bad.”

While many of the prep school kids, like the lead character Brandon Hardy of “Good Boys,” go on to run their father’s business or have automatic entry into some of the world’s most prestigious firms and companies, Aguirre-Sacasa took a different route. He is the son of a Nicaraguan diplomat and grew up in Washington, D.C., where he attended Georgetown Preparatory School in Bethesda, Md., and then Georgetown University where he studied playwriting.

He went on to receive his Masters degree in English from McGill University and graduated from the Yale School of Drama.  Marvel Comics is where he went on to work as a writer and that led to additional writing gigs, for the TV shows “Glee,” “Big Love” and “Looking.” Aguirre-Sacasa developed the series “Riverdale,” and “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” and he is chief creative officer of Archie Comics.

But “Good Boys” is a a far cry from Archie and Marvel Comics fare. Or is it?

“My primary job or task is to tell a good story,” Aguirre-Sacasa said. “I basically write more escapist stories than dramas that are trying to take down the government. There’s a lot of that in Los Angeles. I try to offer up a different narrative or different story. Sometimes it’s a thriller or teen shows or comedy or horror and give a little bit of escape. Of course there is some of my political point of view in the writing, but that’s certainly not the point. But I share the worries that many in Californians share about what’s happening in this country.”

Betsy Brandt, famous for her sympathetic role as the troubled sister-in-law on “Breaking Bad,” portrays Elizabeth Hardy, the mother of Brandon Hardy in “Good Boys.” She has a choice to make: Risk everything to find out the truth, or preserve the family legacy.

“Brandon is accused of videotaping himself having sex with a girl student and questions of consent are raised and whether or not the incident was coerced,” Aguirre-Sacasa said. “So Elizabeth Hardy is sort-of on trial, her family’s on trial and she herself is trying to figure out if her son did or didn’t do it, and what her role in helping shape this young man’s life was.”

Was the play based on real life?

“Not specifically,” Aguirre-Sacasa said. “I wrote  the first draft of this play 15 years ago and I went to a prep school. The incident in the play didn’t happen at my prep school. Things like it were in the air and there was a certain kind of culture there, what we now call ‘toxic masculinity,’ and what we now call cultures of privilege and I wanted to write about it.

“And the incident that sparked me to write it was the Duke Lacrosse scandal, which happened you know, 14 or 15 years ago,” he said. “Sadly, these are not isolated events.”

Aguirre-Sacasa said it may take more pressure to eradicate the attitude that goes with the longstanding bad behavior.

“Some of these institutions that we’re talking about have been around for 200 years,” Aguirre-Sacasa said. “My school is over 200 years old. And that’s generation upon generation upon generation of students.  I think that’s why we’re in the middle of a giant reckoning that’s much larger than prep schools. That’s why this behavior stays put.”

Aguirre-Sacasa said he hopes that things will improve for the next generation.

“I do think that there is more visibility and more representation of every different kind of person which is good,” he said. “I wish that that translated into policy changing. My grandparents were immigrants to this country, they became American citizens. That was their dream to become American citizens.  I hope that that dream doesn’t die, so it’s worrisome. But I do feel like youth today are they are a little more political and I think that’s good.”

The Pasadena Playhouse presents “Good Boys” from  June 30 through July 21. For tickets see: https://www.pasadenaplayhouse.org/event/good-boys/

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