School Girls; or The African Mean Girls Play

Last August, while I was in New York, I heard about an off-Broadway play that was having a very successful run. The play, written by a young New York playwright, Jocelyn Bioh, was called School Girls; or the African Mean Girls play. It sounded exactly what my students at St Mary’s would love.

The rights to the play were not yet available outside New York as the run was still on. I contacted Jocelyn on Facebook and she was delighted that somebody outside New York and in Africa, had heard of her play. She was happy to grant us the first amateur rights – so we are the first actors outside New York to perform this brand-new work!

The play is based on Jocelyn’s own mother’s boarding school in Ghana and is set in 1980. Jocelyn was born and raised in Washington. Her inspiration came from a scandal in 2011 when a young woman from Minnesota returned to Ghana and won the Miss Ghana crown – was she truly Ghanaian?

Jocelyn, an actor and writer, wrote 27 drafts of the play. She is interested in girls “owning their beauty” and “humanising the villain” in her play. She also believes comedy is a funny way of being serious.

In the play, Paulina is the “leader” of the girls and is sure she will be chosen by the Miss Global Universe Pageant recruiter to be the next Miss Ghana ... and then a new girl arrives, and the drama begins! The play is very fast paced, involves a small cast and is set in the dining hall of the boarding school. The characters are wonderful – each has a unique quality and the actors are enjoying exploring these wonderful females and how they interact with one another.

It is enormously fun – very typical of the cruelty and strong friendships that forge between teenaged girls. In rehearsals, we have also picked up the “underbelly” of the comedy – which is rooted in insecurity, what is “beauty” and the terrible pressure society puts on us to conform to these notions of beauty, race and success.

School Girls; or the African Mean Girls Play will be performed on Wednesday 27, Thursday 28 and Saturday 30 March in The Edge.

Janet Baylis 

HOD Drama 

Rehearsing for the play