Penned by Ghanaian American Jocelyn Bioh, Faculty Girls Or, the African Signify Women Perform is a celebration of girlhood. Nashville Repertory Theatre’s output demonstrates that director Alicia Haymer — whose preceding directing credits involve get the job done with Actors Bridge Studio, Nashville Story Backyard, Avenue Theatre Business and Kindling Arts Pageant — has come into her personal.
Established in 1986 in the special Abduri Boarding Faculty in central Ghana, School Girls has a premise that is certainly related to that of Tina Fey’s common Necessarily mean Girls movie (as nicely as the Broadway adaptation that just shut upstairs in TPAC’s Jackson Hall). Like Suggest Ladies, University Women facilities around a clique of teenager ladies led by a beautiful but ruthless chief. And as in Imply Ladies, this clique is upended by the arrival of a new female. But the similarities pretty much end there — University Womans has the depth and conscience that Indicate Girls has constantly lacked.
Headmistress Francis (the indomitable Cynthia Harris) has been getting ready the girls for a natural beauty pageant for weeks. The winner will be crowned Skip Ghana and eligible to contend in the Pass up Universe pageant. Tamiko Robinson Steele plays pageant recruiter (and Skip Ghana 1966) Eloise, whose fluorescent-pink pantsuit stands out from the earth-toned set. Eloise is in it to earn — not for the girls or Abduri or even Ghana, but for her own economical get. Golden female Paulina (Joy Pointe) is predestined to earn.
But alongside arrives the new woman Ericka (performed by the great Tosha Marie), straight from exotic Ohio, United states of america. She is gentle-skinned with bouncy, outlined curls and a wardrobe that the other folks could not even dream of owning. And a large, fat wrench is thrown into Paulina’s strategies. Haymer’s casting is place-on. By pairing neighborhood theater veterans Harris, Steele and Marie along with rising talent, she cultivates a established the place you can explain to the actors are looking out for one particular one more. Pointe is pitch great as the self-assured leader who presides over her girl team, holding them in verify via place-downs and intimidation. Her behavior towards shy Nana (Kortney Ballenger) is particularly degrading — she shames Nana for her bodyweight and threatens to expose her for eating treats on the sly. What Paulina lacks in decency, Nana helps make up for in spades. They are accompanied by Ama (Valicia Browne), who is exhausted of Paulina’s dictatorship, and lovable goofballs Gifty (Ashley D. Brooks) and Mercy (Carli Hardon), whose comical naivete breaks up emotionally weighty scenes. All actors flawlessly provide.
It has become common for a company to cast all Black actors, and our region has no shortage of proficient performers. Haymer established out to direct the manufacturing with not only a solid, but a crew composed entirely of individuals of shade. Everybody from the costume and lighting administrators (Skyler Glaser and Rachael N. Blackwell) to the phase manager (Nikita Staggs) and wig stylist (Denise René Evans) are individuals of color. By undertaking so, Haymer is elevating the bar for what can be achieved in Nashville, and the outcomes of their labor are experienced, finished and up to date.
Haymer is the second Black lady to immediate a participate in in the Rep’s record — and the first to marshal a crew solely produced up of persons of coloration. In her director’s notice, Haymer writes that “the force to be great is a body weight that many Black artists have,” specifically when they are amongst the first to be given an opportunity. “Once we stage into people positions,” writes Haymer, “we are scrutinized harshly to be the absolute best at the issue we are trying to complete. The quickest, the smartest — generally with no space for error lest one more Black man or woman never get this option yet again.”
The people experience the exact sort of check. In any society, when teenager girls pin their hopes on superficial accolades, they are sure to meet disappointment. But in University Womans, there is so significantly additional on the line. To be topped Overlook Ghana would validate them among their peers. But to be topped Miss Universe would legitimize the prospective of their complete country in the eyes of the earth. That is a large stress for any secondary-faculty pupil to carry. Paulina and her crew are happy African women who are however seduced by every thing American. As they experience the hurdle of their internalized colorism, they need to reassess the nature of splendor — and the value in them selves and each individual other.
It is a really exclusive play. And Haymer’s is a pretty specific generation. Her self-assured hand interprets superbly by means of her solid and crew, and everybody reveals up with authenticity and care.