The secret life of girls

Wicked Queen

Casualties of adolescence litter the stage during a preview of <i>Wicked Queen</i>.

Casualties of adolescence litter the stage during a preview of Wicked Queen.

My memories of seventh grade are mostly filled with images of my best friend, Debbie, and I joined joyfully at the hip. Sleepovers every week, sitting together at lunch, dropping notes into each other’s lockers, or on the phone, planning the outfits we’d wear the next day to school. Until the day Debbie wouldn’t talk to me.

I thought she hadn’t heard me, but she was ignoring me, wouldn’t even look at me. No seat was saved for me at the lunch table. Just painful silence and then an angry note in my locker: “Shawn and I are best friends now. She’s a much better friend than you are. Leave us alone.”

It was one of the most traumatic experiences of my life, even now. I was a pariah, bereft of all friendships. Teased mercilessly for every outfit, every lunch I’d packed, every answer I volunteered in class.

It wasn’t until my 30s that I realized that this was, in fact, a universal experience among girls. But oh, how I wish I had seen Wicked Queen when I was 12.

Stephanie Richardson with TheatreWorks of Northern Nevada was a substitute teacher who’d noticed “the thing with girls. There’s always three, with one of them being left out.”

That’s why, as an acting coach and producer, she was struck by Rinne Goff’s script for Wicked Queen. She determined immediately that TheatreWorks would present the show and that her friend Nikki Ernst should direct it.

Ernst was particularly moved by it in light of the recent bullying on MySpace that is alleged to have led to a teenage girl committing suicide.

“Girls are always thought to be so sweet,” says Ernst. “Girls actually tend to be more catty and mean than guys to each other.”

Wicked Queen‘s six-person cast, ages 10-12 (those most likely to be living through such an ordeal), beautifully tell the story of an 11-year-old girl named Stevie (Delaina Marenghi) who is the new girl at school. On her first day, the social boundary lines are drawn when Lucinda (Lyric Morrow), the “queen” of the school, enlists her cronies, Alicia (Kassandra Glueck) and Philippa (Ashley Warren), into a vicious game of Let’s Torture the New Girl.

Upon returning home, Stevie wallows in misery on her bed, which becomes a portal to the imaginary world of Grossland. Lucinda is the Wicked Queen of Grossland, who requires human sacrifice and exorbitant taxation (collected by Alicia, her Deputy of Finance) from her subjects to sustain her kingdom.

As Stevie’s story unfolds, we learn about the dirty dealings of adolescent girls. Lucinda’s cruelty is tempered, in Stevie’s mind, by the appeal of her undeniable popularity. Stevie begins to turn her back on everyone she loved-including her best friend back home, Carly (Brittany Richardson), and her brother, Michael (Rhett Lawson), as well as everything that had made her unique.

The drama is also mirrored in Grossland, where Stevie realizes she has a choice: Remain true to the Wicked Queen by continuing to sacrifice yourself and those you love, or simply remain true to yourself.

The show is intended for young people ages 8 to 14. Young girls, especially (or those who are still young at heart) will no doubt find parallels between Stevie’s story and their own tortured adolescence. I know I did.