Almost a year has gone by since The New Edition Story debuted, but the influence of the '80s feels ever present in MCC Theater's play, School Girls.
Written by Ghanaian-American writer and actor, Jocelyn Bioh, the story follows six teenage girls at a Ghanaian boarding school who bond of over boys, dieting and beauty pageants in the 1980s. The "queen bee" of the group is Paulina Sarpong played by An African City's MaameYaa Boafo, who bullies her clique into worshipping the ground she walks on.
But when newcomer, Ericka Boafo (Nabiyah Be) joins the school, tensions rise as the adoration shifts from Paulina to her — largely due to her "exotic" upbringing in Ohio and fair skin from her bi-racial heritage.
Escalated by an impending beauty pageant for the title of Miss Ghana, the storyline touches on race, colorism, classism, teenage angst and the universal desire to feel accepted.
"I think the message of School Girls is ultimately loving yourself and owning your beauty," Bioh told ESSENCE. "We as Black women live in a society where we are constantly compared to a European standard. We are bombarded with images that reinforce the ideology that Black is not desirable. I am of the mind that it is never too early (or late!) to educate people on all of the 'isms' that derive from racism —and colorism is one that directly affects the Black community, both here and abroad."
While the subject matter is serious, the cast brilliantantly navigates around ingrained beauty standards —with a remixed version of New Edition's "Candy Girl" closing out each scene.
"As a first generation Ghanaian-American playwright, I will always be passionate about telling stories reflect the African diaspora, a continent so devastated by colonialism. I hope my work will entertain, but also serve as a catalyst to educate and heal. "
Boafo shares a similar sentiment about the show's powerful and vital message.
"By the end of the show, I hope the audience —especially young girls— leave the theater feeling empowered knowing that #BlackGirlMagic truly exists."