‘The African Mean Girls Play’ Queen Bee on the Humor of High School
Heavy is the head that wears the crown, especially as a teenage queen bee. Jocelyn Bioh’s critically acclaimed comedy “School Girls: Or, The African Mean Girls Play” centers on Ghana’s most exclusive all-girls boarding school and follows the craziness that ensues when the students vie to capture the attention of a Miss Universe pageant recruiter.
“Schools Girls” comes to Los Angeles after a twice-extended hit run off Broadway at MCC Theater, and will return there for another set of performances this fall, with performances beginning Oct. 16. But first, the show will spend Sept. 2-30 at the Kirk Douglas Theatre in Culver City.
TodayTix chats with actress MaameYaa Boafo about playing the show’s reigning royal Paulina and examining the universal touchstones of this African comedy.
What were you like in high school?
My family moved around a lot, so I’ve been the new girl several times: I started high school as a freshman in Switzerland and graduated as a senior from an international school in Kenya. I wasn’t shy per se, but I was hyper-aware that I was a minority when it came to class demographics and didn’t quite fit in any one category. I dabbled in sports and always had the coolest language teachers, and no matter what school I was in, I always wanted to be part of whatever production was going on. And I was always the corny one with the dad jokes and silly moves within my circle of friends, and I’m still currently — and proudly — the dorky cornball out of our “School Girls” company.
The subtitle, “The African ‘Mean Girls’ Play,” is amazing.
Right? Haha! Actually, Jocelyn was originally just going to leave the title as “School Girls.” That latter part was to get the attention of potential agents and producers and have them read what she does best — African comedy. It worked! Since it was such a fun and catchy title, she decided to leave it as is.
This play got rave reviews in New York, and will be going back for a second time after the LA run. How did you feel when you first started hearing the positive response?
I think I speak for everyone involved with the production that we were ecstatic! I’ve been a part of “School Girls” since its inception, so to see it grow from reading workshops, to what it is now, in the span of about two years, is mind-blowing. It is truly an honor to be a part of such an important piece of work that audiences positively resonate with.
What do you think is universal about the story?
That regardless of one’s age or gender, on any continent and in any time period, we can all relate to the feeling of yearning to belong.
What do you admire about your character, even though she’s a “mean girl” here?
Her tenacity. I love the fact that Paulina is a three-dimensional African teenager who dares to make her dreams come true by doing whatever it takes to become — well, in her mind — the best version of herself.
“School Girls” explores colorism, which is an under-discussed topic.
I don’t want to give too much away regarding what happens in the play, so just click on the TodayTix link right in the corner and we’ll see you … haha. I will say though that this play should be the beginning of more thought-provoking discussions about it — beyond the theater as well.