Girls Like That asks probing questions about technology and teens

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      In 2012, Amanda Todd—a Port Coquitlam schoolgirl—committed suicide after a period of intense bullying. Todd had been blackmailed into exposing her breasts online, the image was captured by a man in the Netherlands, and the individual repeatedly circulated the picture as she was forced to change schools. The child’s case might have been high-profile, but the incident is not an isolated event.

      Girls Like That, a play by Evan Placey, is loosely based on the 15-year-old’s story. When a naked photograph of high-schooler Scarlett goes viral, rumours spread through the classrooms and she is shunned by her friends and peers—including the girls she has known since kindergarten. Staged by Shameless Hussy Productions in collaboration with Theatre Temp’s Dream Big Productions and the Girls in Leadership Club, the play asks questions about the dangers of growing up with technology and the pressures faced by today’s digital generation.

      For director Renée Iaci, the show’s topic is all too prevalent in local high schools.

      “We were all crazy when we were teenagers, and we all made mistakes,” she tells the Straight on the line from the Arts Umbrella. “We all did things that we wish we hadn’t. But when you’re online doing it, it’s not forgotten, and it spreads to so many more people. It’s quite frightening. I just spoke to a teacher who’s bringing his students to see it, and the circulation of a girl’s naked photo literally just happened at his school last week. We’re asking how teens can deal with the situation, but also how parents and the administration can address it, too.”

      The timing of the play is particularly prescient. Harvey Weinstein’s face remains plastered over newspapers, and the media continues to highlight many of the stories illuminated by the recent #metoo hashtag. Iaci is quick to point out that sexual harassment is ubiquitous throughout all layers of society, highlighting how a member of the play’s female-only teenage cast was catcalled days earlier by an older man to the extent that felt she had to run for her safety. The show, she explains, illustrates how it’s important for women to support each other in the fight for gender equality, interspersing the heavy subject matter with laugh-out-loud humour and five explosive musical ensemble numbers.

      “It might raise some serious questions, but the play is very entertaining as well,” Iaci says. “There are a number of choreographed dances set to pop music—Beyoncé, Katy Perry, Taylor Swift—which break up the tension. At certain points the girls are given a history project to research their own female predecessors. They find characters like a flapper girl, a hippie, and an airline pilot, who come from an age where women were often oppressed by men and had to stand up and fight them. It adds a lot of comedy.

      “What’s most important about this play is that it doesn’t preach,” she continues. “It deals with something that’s so different from my generation, and that our kids are having to navigate. It acknowledges that this is happening more frequently than we would like to imagine, and asks us to think about how we are dealing with it. My hope is that the show will open up conversations between adults as much as high-school students.”

      Girls Like That is at Templeton Secondary School (727 Templeton Drive) on November 3, and 7 to 10. Tickets and more info are available here.