Interviewed by Marisa Washington
Kyrie Courter made her Goodman Theatre debut in “School Girl; Or, The African Mean Girls Play” playing Ericka Boafo. The play takes on the basic plot of the 2004 film Mean Girls, but adds a twist. It tells the story about how in the 1980s, a new girl, Ericka, joins an all girls school in the midst of a beauty pageant. One girl has the opportunity to become Miss Ghana at the Miss Global Universe pageant and every girl is fighting to win the title. However, Queen Bee, Paulina is in the lead and the arrival of Ericka threatens her power.
The story explores topics of colorism, stereotypes, control, class, and friendship amongst young Black women. It sheds light on how a young woman will do whatever it takes to fit into a society that is constantly against her. Jocelyn Bioh’s writing makes great points that resonate with the audience after the lights turn back on.
My unedited interview with Kyrie Courter is as follows:
Finding common ground and approaching those who wrong me with love helps me regain my power and move forward in the face of adversity.
MW: How did you prepare for your role in the “School Girls; or, the African Mean Girls Play”?
KC: I prepared for my role by listening to a lot of 80s music and truly remembering what it felt like to be a seventeen-year-old. I've always found that music immediately informs the way that I move throughout a space, and getting back into the high school mindset gave me an entryway to mannerisms and thought processes that I found beneficial to unlocking Ericka's internal life.
MW: Did you personally have to deal with “mean girls”, or perhaps was one, in school?
KC: I absolutely dealt with mean girls! Or "haters," as I like to call them. I've healed from those wounds as I've gotten older because I realize that we are all fighting battles that aren't necessarily apparent. Finding common ground and approaching those who wrong me with love helps me regain my power and move forward in the face of adversity.
MW: Can you describe what influenced you to pursue a career as an actor?
KC: Actors are change-makers! I want the world to be full of love, acceptance and compassion, and acting is the physical expression of all of those things. By introducing taboo subjects in this non-confrontational format, we are allowing important conversations to begin. Also, I'm a sucker for singing and dancing, so there's that.
MW: “School Girls; or, the African Mean Girls Play” touches on topics such as colorism, class, and cliques. Although it’s set in the 1980s, it’s still very much impactful today. Why do you think this is?
KC: We are still unraveling the knots of systemic racism today, and I imagine that we'll be undoing this oppression for many years to come. It's frustrating to me (because I'm impatient) when I feel like things aren't changing fast enough, but when we take a second to realize how far we've come since the day our ancestors were brought here on ships, it gives me hope that our world will continue to progress towards justice and equality.
MW: What can/do you want the audience to take away/reflect on from the play?
KC: I want the audience to take a long, hard look at how they treat the people around them. We have unconscious biases, and hopefully viewing this show will unearth some of them so that audience members can begin to process how they can show up for their fellow human beings in a way that brings us closer to global harmony.
MW: Has there been any challenges for you performing [safely] during a pandemic? Any advantages?
KC: It has been nerve-wracking performing during a pandemic, but ultimately incredibly rewarding. People are genuinely touched by this show, even more so than before the pandemic, because we no longer have the opportunity to take theater for granted. After all, it's pretty much been wiped out for a year and a half! And it's a blessing to perform with such a beautiful, talented and loving cast of queens.
MW: Any advice for someone that wants to be an actor?
KC: Train! Not just to be an actor, but to be the best human being you can be. Learning about ourselves and our internal workings only strengthens our craft. Find the things that inspire you and learn about them! And don't be afraid to fail along the way - winners aren't afraid of losing.
You can follow Kyrie and keep up with her work on social media:
@kyriecourter | YouTube: Kyrie’s Karaoke