By Janelle Burrell

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Do you remember the movie “Mean Girls”? Imagine that, but it takes place thousands of miles away, and in the 1980s.

The characters in the play called “School Girls” have accents and wear uniforms, but their message is universal, and will not only make you think but leave you laughing as well. 

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“It’s not often that I laugh out loud, just reading a play,” Amina Robinson, the director of “School Girls,” said. “I was in my office at Temple cracking up laughing.”

From the start, Robinson says she knew this was a production that she wanted to be part of. 

Robinson, a professor of theater at Temple University is the director of the play called “School Girls” or the African “Mean Girls” play.

“School Girls,” Directed By Temple University’s Amina Robinson, Tackles Difficult Topics

 

“It takes place in a Ghanian boarding school for girls,” Robinson said. “There’s a big pageant coming up, the Miss Ghana pageant, and the head girl at school, the most popular girl at school, is really gunning to win.”

And when a new girl joins the school, Robinson said mayhem ensues.

Robinson, who herself has had roles in Oscar-nominated movies, broadway, and TV knew the plot was one that would have audiences hooked. 

The intimate venue at the Arden Theatre in Philadelphia’s Old City section added to its charm.

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“The audience feels like their part of the story,” Robinson said. 

There are so many laugh-out-loud moments during “School Girls.”

“Sometimes a bit over the top funny, but then also be capable of such great depth and humanity,” Robinson said. “It deals most directly with colorism, issues surrounding weight, hair texture, and just that western beauty aesthetic.”

Colorism is a preference for those with a lighter skin tone, and discrimination against those with darker complexions — a longstanding issue within Black and brown communities around the globe. 

Even as it tackles difficult topics, the powerful performances, which include some recent Temple grads, are funny, moving, and filled with passion.

Janelle Burrell: “What do you hope audiences take away from this?”

Robinson: “I hope people leave the show asking, ‘When are we going to just stop believing it? When are we going to stop buying into the notion that there is just one way to be valuable, one way to be beautiful. When are we going to actually find the beauty in all of the variety that exists?’” 

Robinson grew up in Philly and got both her BA and MFA from Temple.

Burrell has now seen the play twice – it is unique, it is spirited, and it has a powerful message.

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It’s playing at the Arden Theater through June 5.

Janelle Burrell