The Secret Life of Girls
by Children's Theatre of Charlotte

Photos by Donna Bise The Secret Life of Girls has garnered well-deserved attention, and Children’s Theatre of Charlotte presents a thoughtful, stage-worthy production of the play.

The story revolves around a group of middle school girls. It begins innocently enough when Abby (Chloé Aktas) invites the girls to her birthday party. They giggle, compliment the gifts, and eat pizza. One girl, Kayla (Kali Hackett), spends the night. This irritates Stephanie (Kristyn Callaway), leader of the group, especially when she finds out that Abby wants to join the volleyball team. They won the championship last season, and she thinks Abby will cause the team to lose if she’s allowed to join. At least, that’s what she says is the reason as she begins to ostracize Abby (with the others falling into place). Abby is at a loss as to what she could have done to anger her friends.

The insidious nature of gossip and bullying is shown clearly as each of the other girls, including Anna Marie (Lauren Berg), Rebecca (Adriana Jerez), and Sutton (Sarah Slusarick), take their turn being the object of scorn led by the vindictive Stephanie. The adults, Sutton’s Mom/Coach (Donna Scott), and Abby’s Mom (Rebecca Koon) are either clueless or are at a loss as how to help.

The structure of the play, by necessity, is episodic as it needs to show the passage of time. The set is spare and the mostly bare stage is used effectively. There are three video screens where projections appear frequently. The technical expertise of the video design by Jay Thomas is solid. And although the videos provide visual interest and some much needed comic relief, it is over-used at times. For instance, when the characters are emailing to others, the actors read the emails, but the projected emails lag behind. We all know what emails look like. Anything in a play that slows the forward progress of the action, or distances the audience, is questionable. Video is a great tool onstage, but its use needs to be judicious.

Having said that, Nicia Carla is talented director who clearly has a good rapport with her actors. The adult actors do well, but this is the ensemble of young actors’ play, and the director gets credit for creating an atmosphere where they feel safe to make choices that work even when their characters are unlikable. Each character is distinct and not difficult to differentiate. They are all very good in their roles, but Chloé Aktas as Abby and Kristyn Callaway as Stephanie anchor the play and help give their characters subtext and depth.

After the performance Ms. Carla had the audience rate the characters from “good to bad” opening up a much needed follow-up discussion led by Jeanine Davis (WPEG-FM Power 98 radio) from an organization called Girl Talk Foundation, Inc., about the play and the characters. This is particularly helpful since the play raises so many areas of concern for the audience of girls. Their

comments were alternately funny, insightful, and poignant.

Adults know that gossip and bullying are facts of life, but for girls, especially the idealistic ones, reality can be a let down. Many don’t have the inner resources yet to know how to deal with an ugly side of human nature, believing it’s their fault. Being a mother to children of both genders, though, I know girls have a more complex road to navigate. The worrisome thing about gossip, rumors and lies is that there is no way to counteract it. The important thing, though, and why this play is a good beginning for discussion, is that we all have choices about who we want to be in the world. I’ve never heard of anyone saying on their deathbed they wished they had gossiped more. If there’s regret, it’s that they weren’t kinder. Our girls don’t just need to know how to get through today. We need to help them see other perspectives on finding their way to a healthy, self-respecting adulthood.

Ann Marie Oliva
Producer/Editor –

Performed March 27 - April 5, 2009.

Photos by Donna Bise

~ Cast ~
Photos by Donna Bise

Abby: Chloé Aktas

Stephanie: Kristyn Callaway

Rebecca: Adriana Jerez

Kayla: Kali Hackett

Sutton: Sarah Slusarick

Anna Marie: Lauren Berg

Chandler: Darien Talley

Sutton’s Mom/Coach: Donna Scott

Abby’s Mom: Rebecca Koon 


Director: Nicia Carla

Scenic Designer: Andrew Gibbon

Costume Designer: Laree Lentz

Video Projection Design: Jay Thomas

Properties Designer: Peter Smeal

Sound Designer: Van Coble, Jr.

Lighting Designer: Trista Rothe

Production Stage Manager: Brenda Arko

Stage Manager: Melissa Robinson

Production Manager: Andy Brown

Technical Director: Jeff Weeks

Costume Shop Manager         Amy Akerblom Holroyd

Literary Manager              Lucy Hazlehurst

Master Carpenter            Andrew Gibbon

Scenic Artist               Tim Parati

Master Electrician         Hallie Gray

Audio Engineer             Paul Setzer

Costume First Hand      Marina Arconti

House Carpenter            Jeremy Holroyd

Carpenters                 John Slechta, Justin Dashinell

Electricians              Paul Setzer, Barbara Berry

Wardrobe Supervisor      Kehlee Walsh

Hair Stylist              Barbi VanSchaick

Production Interns         Kate Bulla, Robyn Smith


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