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By Hannah Romero
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The power of acceptance

Green River High School Theater presents "Mean Girls"

 

November 9, 2023

Star photo by Hannah Romero

The "plastics" accept Cady Heron into their group, which has specific rules, like wearing pink on Wednesdays. The "Mean Girls" cast did a rehearsal for the understudies Monday night. Pictured from left to right are Ray Meyers as Karen Smith, Madelyn Thomas as Gretchen Wieners, Taylor Kendall as Regina George and Kaitlyn Tanner as Cady Heron.

While a high school theater putting on a production about high schoolers seems fitting, Green River High School's production of "Mean Girls" may not be what people expect. However, the contrast between the students and the characters they play is part of what gives the show its power and allows the heart of the musical to shine through.

A "spicy" show

"Mean Girls" tells the story of Cady Heron, "an unsocialized girl who gets very socialized very quickly," according to Assistant Director Julia Eaton.

When Cady, who has been homeschooled and living in Africa, goes to high school, she meets different groups of students. One of these groups is "the Plastics," led by "apex predator" Regina George. As Cady learns about the dynamics between students and tries to find her place, she faces the challenge of being herself or adapting to fit in.

As it portrays the complicated world of high school, "Mean Girls" may have more mature elements than people are typically used to seeing on the GRHS stage.


"It's a little spicy," Eaton pointed out, noting there may be strong words in the projections and the dialogue, and surprising moments, like a character flipping people off. "It can be a little abrasive."

Eaton was quick to add that the directors have worked hard to make sure all of the actors are comfortable with their roles, including things like dialogue and costumes.

While the students are comfortable with what they're presenting, it's possible the audience might not always be, and the content of the show may surprise people. However, the directors and cast hope everyone understands it has a purpose.


"It does have a PG-13 rating for a specific reason," Director Bradlee Skinner explained. "It does talk about some problematic issues that do exist in school today."

Laural Kurth, who plays Ms. Norbury, pointed out that the show is "an accurate depiction of high school," which probably is closer to an R rating in real life.

"There are these aspects within a high school and there are kids having these challenges generally," Kurth said.

"The way that they put the PG-13 aspects into the show is in a way that it induces comedy but it's not willy-nilly, it's not just because," Abigail Smith, who plays the lead role of Cady, explained. "It has meaning . . . I feel like a lot of the stuff that's said gives value to the show and it isn't naughty just to be naughty."


Skinner pointed out that the comedy of the objectionable elements is because the show is satire, which makes fun of things in order to point out problems.

"It's a bit of a spicy show, but if you can see past all that you can really see the beauty of the message of it," Eaton said.

A powerful message

For the directors and cast, the message of the story comes through even stronger with the style of storytelling.

"We're pointing out 'don't be a bad person.' That's the whole point of it," Skinner explained. "Don't be a mean girl. Lift people up, care for one another, be a decent human being. So sometimes you have to point out that these things exist in order to fix them. And that's what we're trying to do with this show. It's not glorifying the bad things, it's pointing them out to tell you to not do them."


The message Eaton takes away from the show revolves around anti-bullying themes and acceptance. She said the story is "about accepting who you are for you and accepting others for who they are, and not judging others on their faults or the mistakes they've made in the past, as long as they can apologize and own up to those mistakes for the future."

Kurth agreed that acceptance is one of the biggest themes.

"I think that the big message of the show is to be yourself and to also be accepting of others," she said. "It's okay to be who you are, but also it's far more important to not bring others down because of it."

"I think the most important message is that you don't need to change yourself to fit in," Smith added. "The people who care about you and that love you will love you regardless."


A connected cast

One of the best parts of doing the show has been seeing the ways the students in the cast live out the messages of the story by accepting and supporting each other.

"Overall it's been a really positive experience. We have great students," Eaton said. "They really are so great to one another, and lifting one another up, which I think is truly, truly beautiful."

She pointed out that it's true that high schoolers can sometimes be "catty," which parallels the show, but said that these students have been accepting and supporting, especially with the upperclassmen supporting some of the younger cast members.

"We have a ton of freshmen in the show, and [the seniors] just grabbed them and scooped them up and taught them how things work," Eaton added. "They've been amazing kids to work with."

For Smith, working with and helping the younger cast members has been an important part of the experience.

"We have a lot of freshmen that are understudies for main roles and it's so beautiful to watch them grow," she explained. "I remember being a freshman and seeing all of these big, confident seniors who were getting the main leads and were doing all of these things, and I remember wanting to be them so bad, and now I am. And I tried to give all of the knowledge that is crammed into my theater brain to all of these freshmen so that they can succeed and so that they can strive and thrive."

Smith is a senior and has been involved in theater all through her high school career, starting as a step-sister in Roger and Hammerstein's "Cinderella," playing Lancelot in "Spamelot," and playing Sally Jackson in the spring production of "The Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical." Having a lead role in her senior year is an exciting moment for her.

"I worked really hard to get where I am," she said. "I'm feeling pretty proud of myself."

Kurth also pointed out the amount of talent among the upperclassmen girls in the theater program at the moment, and how the show is perfect to showcase that talent. She also added how important the dynamic among the cast has been to the show.

"One of the most rewarding parts is definitely the people that I get to work with," she said. "They're great people, they're really talented, and it's really fun to work with them."

Smith has had a similar experience.

"I think one of the biggest payoffs was the closeness that I have with my costars and the cast," she said. "I love each and every one of my cast so much and the show is so phenomenal because of them. It is not a one-woman show. It's not all about me. It's about every single one of us. And I am so grateful for all of the people that have come closer to me during the show."

Star photo by Hannah Romero

Damien (played by understudy Breckyn Rasmussen, center) explains the school cliques to Cady to help her find where she belongs.

"Mean Girls" opens at Green River High School tonight. There will be performances at 7 p.m. on November 9, 10, 11 and 13. Tickets are $7 and are available online or at the door.

 

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