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Performance is first partnership between PCS, Artists Rep. See Jocelyn Bioh's hit comedy.

COURTESY PHOTOS - From left are Treasure Lunan, Morgan Walker, Andrea Vernae, and Tamera Lyn in "School Girls; Or, The African Mean Girls Play" opening Jan. 24 at The Armory in Portland.

For The Review, Tidings

Jocelyn Bioh's hit comedy "School Girls; Or, The African Mean Girls Play" comes to Portland, opening Jan. 24 and continuing through Feb. 16 at Portland Center Stage at The Armory as a co-production between Artists Repertory and PCS.

Inspired in part by Bioh's mother's time in a boarding school in Ghana, and Bioh's own experience in a boarding school in Pennsylvania, "School Girls" tells the story of Paulina, the reigning Queen Bee at Ghana's most exclusive boarding school.

Her dreams of winning the Miss Universe pageant are threatened by the arrival of Ericka, a new student with undeniable talent, beauty and lighter skin.

The New York Times called Bioh's biting play about the challenges facing teenage girls across the globe "a gleeful African makeover of an American genre."

"Oftentimes, the stories about Africa that are being served up are usually tales of extreme poverty, struggle, strife, disease and war," said Bioh. "This narrative is a dangerous and calculated one, and it has always been my goal to present the Africa I know and love so dearly. 'School Girls' was my first produced play, and I'm so thrilled at the reception."

Lava Alapai, who will direct "School Girls," spoke to the importance of a comedic story centering on black teenage girls.

"We seldom get to see black women on stages that allow space for joy and community," she said.

This production marks the first time that Artists Repertory Theatre and Portland Center Stage at The Armory have co-produced a show.

"This synergy between our two companies is a Portland theater milestone," said Damaso Rodriguez, artistic director at Artists Rep. Marissa Wolf, artistic director at The Armory said. "This partnership between our two theaters, helmed by our fantastic director, Lava Alapai, lifts us and our community together."

Andrea Vernae stars as the queen bee and mean girl, Paulina Sarpong; Morgan Walker plays Ericka Boafo, the newcomer who threatens Paulina's reign.

The cast is rounded out by Kisha Jarrett as Headmistress Francis, Kayla Kelly as Mercy, Tonea Lolin as Gifty, Treasure Lunan and Sara Williams as Eloise Amponsah.

Various community events will be held surrounding the show, including a preshow reception with the Ghana Association of Oregon, a dramaturgy class on "School Girls" taught by cast member Kisha Jarrett, and discussions with cast, crew and community guests.

More details will be posted online at pcs.org/schoolgirls or artistsrep.org/education closer to the show.

Tickets range in price from $25 to $87 and can be purchased online at pcs.org or by calling 503-445-3700 Tuesday through Sunday, or in person at 128 N.W. 11th Ave., Portland.


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