Hangman School for Girls is the story of Hazel, an 11-year-old English Schoolgirl whose shyness and insecurity keeps her from engaging with her schoolmates. The project began with the question of what makes someone a pariah; Hazel herself being an experiment in the psychology of a hateful person.
Told from Hazel’s perspective, the play maintains a firm bias to her version of events. Scenes about and involving the schoolmates are a clownish pantomime of noise and motion as Hazel is overwhelmed by the exuberance and vivacity of her peers. Hazel’s one-on-one encounters with the girls are more naturalistic, yet still there is a quickness of speech that Hazel cannot catch up with, and as she wants to be the heroine of her own story her frustration and anger causes her to make villains of them all, both in her mind and in her real interactions with them. The Desk – literally the school desk at which she sits - is a characterization of Hazel’s imagination that spans the heights of her conscience and the depths of her capacity for rage. Played by the only male in the cast, Desk has a clearer sense of reality and of intention. He starts by seducing and comforting Hazel, providing her with a safe place to play that eventually becomes a hell of doubt and self-punishment.
The loss of innocence balanced with self-punishment is deeply explored. What constitutes a loss of innocence in today’s society, and how does it manifest itself? Traditionally it is the loss of virginity that symbolizes the assumption of the weightier responsibilities of adulthood, but now there are so many ways to be sophisticated at an early age. In urban societies, where there is a myriad of backgrounds, ethnicities, religions and castes; the loss of innocence, as much as it is the understanding of a knowledge that is greater and more powerful than yourself, occurs at the front lines of where cultures start to mix: At school. Hazel is ruptured the moment that the girls parade into the classroom.
Choreography is vital to the staging of Hangman School for Girls, and will be the main focus of the rehearsal process. As Hazel lives in a world of impressions, both the Desk and the Girls will employ highly stylized physicality. Throughout, the Desk goes from being an object to becoming human - and he both enjoys and is conscious of his regeneration. The Girls are buoyant and volatile. They stumble through adolescence, finally become graceful young women as Hazel retreats further into her fantastical constructions.
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