GirlPower: Voices of a Generation
nytheatre.com review by Nancy Kim
August 20, 2009
Dubbed the "MySpace Generation," young people in their teens and early 20s are identified by the way the internet is at the center of their lives, where they communicate, interact, and establish their friendships, relationships, and identities all online. Therefore, it's daring to see the GirlPower Ensemble take center stage in revealing what is on the minds of young women of their generation.
A group of 19 girls and young women—ranging from 13 through college-aged—make up the ensemble and most of them perform their own words in a collection of almost 40 monologues, poems, and short scenes. Topics include familiar struggles and obstacles, such as body issues and Barbie, sexual pressures, and family relationships. But these are also young women who embrace being weird, different, and flawed. Ashley Marinaccio and Elizabeth Koke helped to edit and direct, giving each ensemble member a couple of opportunities to take the spotlight while the rest of the company remains on stage to listen before they take their turn. This simple staging reminds us the power of listening and sharing as a community.
I think the deeply personal stories and monologues that resonated with me are the ones that I viewed through the lens of my own experience and history, so I was struck by Kezia Tyson's "Graffiti" when she asks people to see the beauty and art in grafitti and wonders if people will also give her a chance. Or in Michelle Lee's monologue, "Feeling Different," in which she doesn't understand why people have to be defined by how they look, what they watch, or what they wear. And in both "A Talk with My Guidance Counselor" and "Tribute to Ms. Whiting," I was reminded how profound the influence of a teacher or the safe ear of a grown-up could be. Writer/performer Lyric Anderson unleashes her pent-up fears of sexual pressure to her guidance counselor, while Lauren Curet performs a monologue by Nora Kennedy about a U.S. Honors teacher who opens her eyes and helps her to question the portrayals of women in media. I also admired Dominique Fishback's spoken-word poem, "He Once Had A Dream," about our responsibility to Martin Luther King, Jr.'s legacy.
Near the end, each girl contributes a couple of lines to the "The Theatre and I," giving their reasons why theatre is important to them. It's nice to hear Amber Rhabb state simply, "I think the theatre and I will be together forever." If that proves to be true, then we're lucky that theatre is going to be left in their generation's capable hands.