Calling all readers! Multnomah County Library put together a reading list inspired by our production of School Girls; Or, The African Mean Girls Play. From colorism, to African art and culture, to body-image issues and universal teen girl angst, the books on this list further explore themes related to the play.Learn More
We asked members of the cast and the director if they would share some thoughts and experiences with colorism in their own lives. Here are a selection of their responses.Learn More
Please share the following points with your group of students. Encourage the students to practice these points throughout the workshop. Going to see a play is very different from going to the movies. During live theater, the audience is as important a part of the experience as the actors.
- Live response is good! If you’re telling a story to a friend, and they really respond or listen, it makes you want to tell the story better—to keep telling the story. So, the better an audience listens, laughs and responds, the more the actors want to tell the story. In this way, the audience (as well as the actors) can make a performance great.
- The actors can hear you talking. If an audience member is not paying attention, the actors know it. Have you ever had a conversation with someone and felt that they’d rather be someplace else? This is the EXACT feeling actors get when people in the audience are talking.
- The actors can see you. Even though the actors are pretending to be other characters, it is their job to “check in” with the audience in order to tell the story better. This is another way in which theater greatly differs from the movies. Film actors can do a take over and over to try to get it right. Theater actors have one chance with an audience and want to make sure they are communicating clearly. Imagine trying to tell a group of fellow students something only to see them slouching, pretending to be bored, or sitting with their eyes closed in an attempt to seem disinterested and “too cool” for what you had to say. Think about it.
- No cell phones, candy wrappers, gum, etc. Please turn off all cell phones and put th em away. Do not eat or chew gum inside the theater. These things disturb the people around you as well as the actors. As much as you might be tempted to text a friend how cool the play you're watching is, please wait until after it is over to send any texts.
- Be mindful of other patrons, both in the theater and in the lobbies. Please don't run in the lobby area, and help us take care of our elderly patrons by opening a door for them or helping them get by. They will be so appreciative! Keep in mind that Portland Center Stage at The Armory is welcoming you into our home on this field trip. Please treat our home with respect.
*Thank you to Montana Shakespeare in the Parks for these excellent etiquette suggestions.*
Student Matinee Curriculum
Portland Center Stage’s Student Matinee Program seeks to provide all young people with opportunities to experience and directly participate in the art of high-quality, professional theater in a context that supports their education. The following is designed to help students explore themes found in our production of School Girls; Or, The African Mean Girls Play. We encourage you to choose the most appropriate activities for your group and adapt as needed.
- To encourage personal connections between the students and the major themes of the play.
- To excite students about the story and introduce the theatrical elements of the production.
- To engage students using the actors’ tools (body, voice, imagination).
1. The idea for School Girls is reported to be inspired by a controversy at the 2011 Miss Ghana pageant. The winner, Yayra Erica Nego, was an American-born and Minnesota-raised biracial woman. Officials claimed that her father was from the obscure Volta region of Ghana but never confirmed his name or whereabouts. In a world where white is beautiful, was it an attempt by the Miss Ghana Pageant officials to have a more viable and perhaps winning contestant in the Miss Universe pageant? Explore this connection to the play and the inspiration from the 2004 movie Mean Girls.
2. From Jocelyn Bioh in interviews about this play:
Part 1: “I think the message of School Girls is ultimately loving yourself and owning your beauty,” Bioh told ESSENCE. “We as Black women live in a society where we are constantly compared to a European standard. We are bombarded with images that reinforce the ideology that Black is not desirable. I am of the mind that it is never too early (or late!) to educate people on all of the ‘isms’ that derive from racism —and colorism is one that directly affects the Black community, both here and abroad.”
Part 2: "Colonialism completely devastated and ravaged so many African nations, and it's really sad how much of that influence has continued to infiltrate African society," says Jocelyn. "The fact that so many women are made to feel that they need to look other than what they look like biologically in order to feel beautiful is a very sad state." From Lenny by Olivia Clement
Discuss these quotes from playwright Jocelyn Bioh and the ramifications on women in today's society facing these judgements and standards.
3. Though the play takes place in Ghana, the story and characters feel very familiar. So many of us will recognize the kind of self-loathing these young women endure. "Yet that's not to say it isn't a fun time at the theater; School Girls has the audience in hysterics within the first five minutes. And that's on purpose." From Jocelyn's perspective, comedy is a way of inviting people in to relate to foreign characters and situations. Laughter lends any story universality, says the playwright. "When people feel like they're having a good time, it releases them to connect and open their ears and hearts." What is the benefit of putting a comedic lens on the themes of the play and why would that resonate with an audience?
4. Use the following articles to fully investigate the full effect of colorism in today's society and what we need to change:
- 5 Truths About Colorism That I've Learned As a Black Woman In NYC, Kristin Collins Jackson, Bustle
- Brown Paper Bag Test - February 2014, Dr. David Pilgrim, Curator, Jim Crow Museum
- The Hues of History: Colorism within the African American Community, Malika Macey and Dr. Vincent Adejumo, Universiry of Florida
Portland Center Stage at The Armory is committed to identifying & interrupting instances of racism & all forms of oppression, through the principles of inclusion, diversity, equity, & accessibility (IDEA).