Murry Bergtraum High School, Grade 12
Close your eyes and drift back to junior high school. Your teacher asks: "What do you want to be when you grow up?" The entire class explodes with both confusion and excitement. The confusion results not just from uncertainty about how we might achieve our goal; some of us weren't sure what we wanted to do. A friend to your right says he wants to be a police officer; a classmate on your left says she wants to be a doctor. Then the person ahead of you blurts out the vaguest response: "I want to be famous!" Unlike your other classmates, this one had no clear directions or a "map to success"; they just wanted to be famous.
Now open your eyes and put this possible life experience into a theatrical perspective. American Girls, a new Off-Broadway play by Hilary Bettis, tells the story of two Midwestern girls who fall victim to that vague ambition of being famous.
Amanda (Bettis, the playwright herself) and Katie (Kira Sternbach) are two 14-year-olds who aspire to be famous celebrities like their idol Miley Cyrus, who happens to be a good Christian girl. It can be assumed that these girls are the cream of the crop at their school; everyone wants to be around them, and they're absolutely drop-dead gorgeous. The play opens up with the two of them sitting in the lunchroom eating applesauce and catching up on some juicy junior high gossip.
What makes this opening scene interesting and believable is the actresses' incredibly fast, high-pitched conversation; every sentence ends with a giggle. Through this choice of language and slang, you can actually see two girls having a very colorful and fun conversation. Throughout the conversation, Amanda is videotaping; these are their last days in junior high. As the conversation progresses, their topics shift as fast as they talk. One topic leads to another, and soon Amanda is trying to cheer up Katie, who has low self-esteem.
Before we know it, in their efforts to become famous celebrities, Amanda and Katie plan to enter an 18 + plus dance competition as a group named the Pixie Chicks to impress a Hollywood talent scout. To their dismay, they make an impression on a sex industry representative, who leads them into performing in an adult film. As these two girls work in the sex industry, they still sport their Hello Kitty book bags and headbands, worry about their clothes and update their Facebook and MySpace pages.
"What would Jesus do?" This is a question that Amanda and Katie continuously ask each other. Throughout the whole story, the action plays out behind a carefully constructed cross with imprints of leaves on it. This was symbolic, showing that religion is a part of everyone's choices in life. In Amanda and Katie's case, religion is used as a justification for their actions; they describes it as their life plan, believeing that they're destined to this because, after all, God must have made them beautiful for a reason.
Even as Katie breaks down in tears because of her shame and guilt, and expresses her contempt for herself and Amanda because her life is ruined, she would later beg for forgiveness and even flaunts that as the best day of her life. This shows that most people at a young age in general are confused and they need guidance in their life. Much of these two girls' story is told through a videotape, which captures different phases of their life and their innocence. Despite the sometimes explicit behavior, I recommend this show for everyone to see because it is a fun, meaningful and sad show all in one.
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