Act Like a GRRRL isn’t quite like anything else you’ll see at the Capital Fringe festival. Its creators and performers are four girls between the ages of 12 and 16, who had two weeks to write about their lives and put together a show featuring autobiographical stories, dances, and songs.
The girls read their pieces directly from the journals they wrote them in, complemented by choreography and introduced by their adult mentors and directors, Jenna Stotts and Cynthia Harris.
The girls open up eloquently and poetically about their struggles with family turmoil, abuse, falling in with “the wrong crowd,” and finding their identity. I laughed out loud or gasped more than once.The result is remarkable and moving. It would be easy for a project like this to just be “good for what it is,” where you appreciate it mostly because the kids worked so hard. But I was genuinely blown away by the quality, beauty, and insight of their writing. It’s all in their own words, culled from spontaneous writing prompts, with no censorship and only light editing and revision.
Erin “Effy Sue” Forrister, Amirah “Aydee Mae” Banker, Faith “Faithy Jean” Sikes, and Josie “Josie Lee” Reganshaw have diverse backgrounds and stories, from Wales to Puerto Rico, from broken homes to white middle class comfort. And you can tell from watching their interactions that they’ve bonded tremendously over the last two weeks. They bring real joy, real friendship, and real solidarity to the stage, and it’s beautiful to see.
The lovely choreography emphasizes this bond. With their physical movements as well as their words, the young women lift each other up and support each other. They embody Act Like a GRRRL’s mission to bust the “competition myth” that tears girls down by making them tear each other down.
Some of the vignettes are admittedly more compelling than others. The show is better when the girls are speaking from deep personal experience or expressing their joy in song and dance than when they’re musing about what it means to be a “GRRRL,” for instance. And in the spirit of “show, don’t tell,” I could have stood to hear less from the teachers and more from the girls. It’s great to hear about the history, mission, and feminist themes behind the show, and interesting to hear about the prompts that led to the various pieces, but the girls’ work really speaks for itself.
Act Like A GRRRL is an annual project founded in 2005 by Vali Forrister in Nashville, Tennessee, that aims to help girls 12-18 years old “discover who we are and what we believe,” and to “cultivate strong voices and experience the power of creating something from nothing.” It seeks to explode “the box” of what our culture tells girls they can be — the limitations, the competition, the impossible tightrope of expectations between being too this or too that. Bravo to this project for doing that work, and bravo to the exceptional girls who made this version of the show their own.
Act Like a GRRRL . Directed by Jenna Stotts and Cynthia Harris. Starring Erin Forrister, Amirah Banker, Faith Sikes, and Josie Reganshaw . Devised by the performers . Show operator: Toby Clark . Produced by Rhonda Eldridge and Vali Forrister . Reviewed by Emily Crockett