Five Questions with the cast of School Girls


Theresa Cunningham
 
1. Which of your previous roles would you be interested in revisiting, and why?
 
I would love to revisit the role of Sofia in The Color Purple. She has a fiery strength and battle-tested resilience to which I still aspire.
 
2. If you could give one piece of advice to your high-school self, what would it be?
 
I would say, "Always know that you have more options than you think."
 
3. Who was a mentor or teacher who helped shape your high school experience?
 
Mrs. Louise Simms was my English teacher for both 9th grade and 11th grade. She would stop her planned lesson on a dime in order to give life guidance through discussion.
 
4. If you were to enter a beauty pageant, what would your unique talent be?
 
I make up excellent songs about traffic!
 
5. What is your character’s favorite Whitney Houston song, and why?
 
Definitely, "The Greatest Love of All." Headmistress Francis is not a big believer in competition, and she instills in each of the girls the importance of embracing their own God-given beauty and talents.

Shirine Babb

1. Which of your previous roles would you be interested in revisiting, and why?

I would want to revisit the role of Hermione in Jack Thorne’s Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. As the understudy, I only had a couple of performances as Hermione. Although it was successful and I received great feedback, it wasn’t enough time to really live in the role and truly make it my own. There were other complexities of Hermione I would have liked to explore.

2. If you could give one piece of advice to your high school self, what would it be?

Stay away from the hair extensions! Stop braiding your hair extensions so tightly! High school was all about the Janet Jackson box braids and it was not healthy.
 
3. Who was a mentor or teacher who helped shape your high school experience?

I don’t know if I would be an actress if it was not for the Rothmans at Hillcrest High in Queens, NY. If I wasn’t in their theatre classes and high school productions, I would not have had the artistic successes and exposure that followed.
 
4. If you were to enter a beauty pageant, what would your unique talent be?
 
When I was in elementary school, I was on a Double Dutch team. And then, when I was in my teens, I was asked to Double Dutch for Diana Ross’s son birthday party!

5. What is your character’s favorite Whitney Houston song, and why?

If “Queen of the Night” was around in 1986, that would have been Eloise Amponsah’s favorite Whitney Houston Song.

Debora Crabbe
 
1. Which of your previous roles would you be interested in revisiting, and why?
 
I would like to revisit my role of Rosalind in Shakespeare’s As You Like It. The role challenged me to be my true, authentic self on stage—something that I hadn’t had to do in a long time. The similarities I found between myself and Rosalind held me back at times, but the journey of exploring her as a character made me confident and made me love myself more.
 
2. If you could give one piece of advice to your high-school self, what would it be?
 
Don’t worry about not getting the roles. Instead, focus on your talent and use this rejection to propel you forward. You were not meant to get this role because there is something bigger, or you need rest, or it is just not right for you. Use the rejection as fuel!
 
3. Who was a mentor or teacher who helped shape your high school experience?
 
The teacher who helped shape my high school experience was my middle school theatre teacher Sharon O’Brien. “Mizzo,” as we affectionately called her, made me realize my love for theatre—which in turn caused me to take theatre classes in high school. The times that we shared in theatre class helped me know that I was meant to be an actor and that no matter what happened, I would always find my solace onstage and in the theatre.
 
4. If you were to enter a beauty pageant, what would your unique talent be?
 
My unique talent would be switching accents or dialects. My accent changes when I leave the comfort of my home, and only my close friends hear me use my accent when I am on the phone. It’s fun to see people get tripped up when they hear me use my natural accent instead of my American one!
 
5. What is your character’s favorite Whitney Houston song, and why?
 
Mercy’s favorite song is definitely “I Wanna Dance With Somebody.” Mercy is fun, young, and truly wants to find a group of friends she can trust. Throughout the play she’s constantly making an attempt to ease the tension, and what better song than one that gets people up on their feet to chase the blues away?!

Moriamo Temidayo Akibu

1. Which of your previous roles would you be interested in revisiting, and why?

I would love to revisit the role of Sam from the world premiere of The Interstellar Ghost Hour by Longacre Lea. Sam was fierce, brave, and funny as hell. She gave love and was open to all the universes around us. Sam and I were heroes.
 
2. If you could give one piece of advice to your high-school self, what would it be?

I would tell myself to wear that really vibrant outfit that you put together—you were always ahead of the game in fashion and folks are going to say what they want to say, so forget the haters! You are brave. Secondly, don't date J------- K---- unless he asks you on a proper date in the daylight. #nosituationships Finally, I would say, “I love you right now, and you are perfect as you are.”

3. Who was a mentor or teacher who helped shape your high school experience?

Mrs. Atamas, my Ukrainian school mom! I loved how she didn't take anything from anyone, even though she was new to the school. She gave me encouragement, a life-long love of math, and even helped me in a monetary bind. I thank my stars for her.
 
4. If you were to enter a beauty pageant, what would your unique talent be?
 
If I was in a beauty pageant my talent would be delivering a Shakespearean monologue. I once auditioned for a musical theatre cabaret with one and received a standing ovation from my competition. When I say words, they become music!

5. What is your character’s favorite Whitney Houston song, and why?

My joyful, powerful Gifty! Her favorite Whitney Houston song is “I Have Nothing.” Not for the content, but because Whitney sings this song. And Gifty sings every word of it loudly and proudly! Two confident icons, duetting over continents.

Claire Saunders

1. Which of your previous roles would you be interested in revisiting, and why?

I would revisit the role of Queenie in Andrew Lippa’s The Wild Party. I’ve grown in a myriad of ways since performing that role, and I would want to see what she feels like to “try on” with who I am now. Plus, singing that score and dancing? Truly so much fun! 

2. If you could give one piece of advice to your high school self, what would it be?

Girl, you’re doing so great. You know more than you think you do, and it’s okay that you want to take your time. Take it!

3. Who was a mentor or teacher who helped shape your high school experience?

Pretty much all of the people who fed the love of the arts in me, including Mr. B, Marianni, Lani, and Julie.
 
4. If you were to enter a beauty pageant, what would your unique talent be?
 
Singing.

5. What is your character’s favorite Whitney Houston song, and why?

“I Wanna Dance With Somebody.” Duh! It’s like a breath of fresh air as soon as it starts. I have to get up or stop whatever I am doing and let that groove in my body. Few things make me happier than a dance floor with good music.

Kashayna Johnson

1. Which of your previous roles would you be interested in revisiting, and why?

I would love to revisit the role of Cheryl in Stick Fly  by Lydia R. Diamond. It was a community theatre production; the run was very short, and days of performance were a bit scattered, so I didn't get enough time to really sit with her and ride her journey. That role is pretty juicy, and a release happens—it is (low-key) therapy.

2. If you could give one piece of advice to your high school self, what would it be?

I would tell my high school self that it's okay to truly believe in yourself the way you “secretly” do. Holding back or being silent about the things you love and are passionate about will not serve you or others. That feeling in the pit of your spirit is real and there for a reason. Lean into it. Explore it. Trust it. Go for it!

3. Who was a mentor or teacher who helped shape your high school experience?

Mentorship is super important and integral to the shaping of one’s high school experience. I thank God for LaShawnte' Holloman-Clay, my teacher and mentor, who I now have the privilege of calling a friend. The DC Metro area may know her as Ayesis Clay; she's a teaching artist, writer, director, and working actress in the area. Her commitment and genuine love for students and the craft truly set the foundation for the artist I am today.

4. If you were to enter a beauty pageant, what would your unique talent be?

If I were ever to find myself, somehow, someway, competing in a pageant, my talent would be summoning the Queen Bee and doing my best Beyoncé impersonation!

5. What is your character’s favorite Whitney Houston song, and why?

Paulina's favorite Whitney song is definitely "How Will I Know"…for sure!
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