A twist on ‘Mean Girls’ shines the spotlight on colorism

Set in Ghana, ‘School Girls’ at the Arden Theatre examines how we view beauty
Imani Moss, Jessica Money, Morgan Charéce Hall, Adaeze Nwoko, and Arielle Faye Telemaco-Beane in "School Girls; Or, the  African Mean Girls Play" at Arden Theatre Company.
Imani Moss, Jessica Money, Morgan Charéce Hall, Adaeze Nwoko, and Arielle Faye Telemaco-Beane in "School Girls; Or, the African Mean Girls Play" at Arden Theatre Company. Photo credit Wide Eyed Studios

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Imagine if Regina George lived in Ghana in 1986.

That’s what playwright Jocelyn Bioh has done with ‘School Girls; Or, the African Mean Girls Play’ - except it’s Paulina, not Regina.

The show, playing now at the Arden Theatre, takes the classic idea of a high school clique and adds in the issue of colorism as the girls prepare for a beauty pageant.

The all-Philadelphian, all-Black cast includes Temple University graduate Jessica Money as Mercy. She joined us on a recent episode of the Jawncast which you can listen to in the audio player above.

“I think the fun thing about this play is that we come to understand that high school is weird and scary for everybody,” Money says.

“This play specifically deals with the ways that white supremacy and Western beauty standards sort of mix that up.”

A new girl moves to town, much like in the play’s movie namesake. Except here, it’s a girl from America moving to Africa, and she’s light-skinned.

In between great comedic moments, the play makes us think about international beauty standards and how Black people of different backgrounds fit in, or don’t.

This production is a Temple reunion of sorts. In addition to Money, actors Imani Moss, Cheyenne Parks and Ontaria Kim Wilson, and director Amina Robinson are all Temple alumnae.

Adaeze Nwoko, Imani Moss, Jessica Money, and Cheyenne Parks in School Girls; Or, the African Mean Girls Play at Arden Theatre Company.
Adaeze Nwoko, Imani Moss, Jessica Money, and Cheyenne Parks in School Girls; Or, the African Mean Girls Play at Arden Theatre Company. Photo credit Wide Eyed Studios

“It feels fun and familiar,” Money said of performing with this group.

“We’re already talking about how much we have already begun to cherish this experience and how it's already becoming something that will remain close to us.”

‘School Girls’ is playing on the Arden’s Arcadia Stage through June 5 at their theater building on North Second Street, just north of Market Street. Dates and tickets can be found at ardentheatre.org.