To be honest, at the end of the first act of The Breakthrough Theatre’s production of Catholic School Girls, I wanted to leave. The theatre itself annoyed me; I felt as if I were sitting in someone’s old converted living room. The stage was small with only one set of lights (which not only illuminated the stage but the audience as well, and was very distracting), and there was no main curtain (so every time crew members ran across the stage in black to change something, everyone could see them clearly).
The first act was cute; the actresses excellently portrayed children at various ages. However, in my mind, the script was a little too harsh. It captured the ugliness of childhood and the cruelness of little kids. The older audience members laughed while the “kids” on stage picked on one another. After recently watching my sister go through this “playful” torment and not coming out as happy-go-lucky as the girls on stage, I could not find the behavior funny at all.
With that said, I am glad I stayed. The second act began in middle school, the truly awkward age that we all have to go through. Jenny Ornstein portrayed Colleen, a dark character who is constantly fighting to be queen of the classroom. At this point, the audience was finally able to see Colleen’s true personality. Ornstein performed a gut-wrenching monologue about her embarrassment at getting her period for the first time in front of the entire class, ending with the girl sobbing as she makes her way off the stage. The topic was rough, but Ornstein pulled it off with flying colors.
Although I loved Ornstein’s performance and I could relate to Toni Claire’s portrayal of Wanda, Megan Borkes ‘10 as Elizabeth truly stole the night.
A recent Rollins alumna, Borkes commented on what an integral part her experiences here played in her performance, “Because Rollins has such a small theater community, it helped to have a lot of stage time to get used to how grown-ups perform. It taught me people skills as well—how to work with people of all different methods.”
At the end, when Borkes begins talking as an adult at a party many years later about her experiences as a Catholic school girl, her character finally shows maturity and closure that proves Borkes’ talent. Borkes hoped to perform in Catholic School Girls since high school. “I was very excited to hear they were auditioning for it. I always wanted to do that first monologue when she was explaining all the misconceptions about the Jews. It was fun to do just because I got to act like a second grader. From “Sister, was Jesus a Jew?” to questions about herself and God’s existence in eighth grade, Borkes’ story became the focal point of the show.
After her grandmother’s death, Borkes’ character enters the chapel and pours her soul out in an emotionally charged speech to God, ending with “You don’t even exist.”
Borkes believes in the strength of the character she played: “her message is important though—it has a sense of hope at the end. Elizabeth’s journey is very moving.”
Borkes has been interested in acting since elementary school and loves performing on stage. “You get the immediate actor-audience relationship. When you are on stage you can get the energy off of the audience. You can gage the audience’s emotions.” Although she is currently still auditioning, she has come to the realization that continuous auditioning is part of the life of the working actor. Catholic School Girls contains life lessons that taught Borkes about her own relationship with church. “I have been a strong agnostic ever since I stopped going to Catholic Church. After this performance, I re-evaluated what a strong force faith is to people. It is good to believe in something, whatever it is. You have to have something you can fall back on and believe in.”
If you are interested in theatre, I recommend visiting the Breakthrough Theatre for its next performance, The Insanity of Mary Girard, which will be running Oct. 28-31. Overall, Catholic School Girls ended up being an excellent performance. I am very glad I stayed.