Jacqueline Blaska ’20, director of the Yale Dramat’s new play “Girlish”, envisions herself and her actors rehearsing the play while lying on the floor of her bedroom with hot chocolate and pillows. This play invites you to step into the world of a teenage girl, or more specifically, Windy, who is obsessed with American Girl dolls. Unapologetically candid in its portrayal of girlhood, “Girlish” explores what it means to be not quite a girl, yet not quite a woman. And in this play, that means talk about periods, boys and burgeoning sexuality.
At one point in the play, Marti, Windy’s best friend, says, “Hey dude do you remember that time when we were 10 oh my god isn’t it weird how technically your first kiss did happen but it was like, with saran wrap between our mouths when we could practice to keep our lip virginity intact and make sure we like weren’t lesbos?”
“Girlish”, written by Alexa Derman ’19, follows Windy and Marti, two 15-year-old girls. Windy is an American Girl doll Instagrammer, who draws the attention of AGBOI97, a male AG (short for American Girl) Instagrammer, causing a bit of strife between her and Marti.
For Derman, “Girlish” tells a story that is both personal and universal. Two summers ago, frustrated with the plays she was writing, Derman came across a picture posted by an American Girl doll instagrammer, @azgfangirly149, who is a passionate collector of these dolls. She discovered a whole online community of girls and boys alike who share an interest in American Girl dolls. She had played with the dolls growing up, and this discovery reminded her of the girly, adolescent world of her childhood.
“I stumbled into this at the same time that I had been thinking about the kind of stories I wanted to tell as a playwright,” she says. She asked herself, “Why can’t the central stakes of a story be the friendship between two 15-year-old girls?”
Blaska notes that it is relatively unusual to have a play that is both so honest and so unapologetically girly. She wants the audience to feel like they are entering a teenage girl’s bedroom, a realm that some people in the audience may find familiar and others extremely alien. “So much theatre really panders to the male imagination of what is drama and what is worthwhile theatre. To have play that centers on the primacy of female friendship and female childhood friendship — I’ve never read a play like this before,” Blaska said. She hopes to challenge members of the audience who may find this world unfamiliar.
Branson Rideaux ’20 is playing AGBOI97, the sole male character in a play about two girls. He believes that his character provides a unique perspective on the world of girlhood.
Rideaux’s character is an American Girl doll Instagrammer who both relates to the girls and intrudes on their space. “I think it is definitely going to change the way the show looks depending on how the male interacts with the women’s space,” he told WKND.
Ultimately, both Blaska and Derman agree that while the play tells a very specific story of adolescence, it engages with universal themes of growing up and finding your own sense of self. Gillian Fu ’20, producer of the play, said that “Girlish” explores that awkward stage of growing up when we are not sure of who we are.
“Even if it is not everyone’s exact experience of girlhood, and it is a very specific type of white femininity, I think that there is a lot there that I hope people will identify with,” Alexa said.
Beyond the story, “Girlish” is following the movement within Yale’s theater scene toward casting more people of color in main roles. All three actors, Walker Caplan ‘20, who plays Windy; Agnes Enkhtamir ’19, who plays Marti, and Rideaux, are of different ethnicities. “I am very excited that “Girlish” has provided opportunities for Asian-American women, it’s something that you don’t see a lot at Yale, and for there to be characters this casting cycle that are explicitly Asian-American is really heartwarming,” said Enkhtamir.
“Girlish” is part of the Yale Dramat’s 2017 Fall Ex showcase. It will show at the Iseman Theater from October 5–7. Tickets will be available closer to the date of the show.
Contact Ko Lyn Cheang at firstname.lastname@example.org .