Meet the Star of 'The Shape of a Girl'
October is Anti-Bullying awareness month, and in the spirit of bringing attention to a topic that affects many, the Wharton Center presents "The Shape of A Girl." Originally inspired by a 1997 murder of a Canadian high school student, "The Shape of A Girl" is a dynamic one-woman show that examines the frightening realities of teenage relationships, aggression and a young woman's battle with inaction. Written by Joan MacLeod, this play looks at the role that one individual can play in preventing bullying from occurring.
Bringing the stage to life, is Paige Hernandez who plays Braidie. Hernandez's performance of juggling several different roles in this one-woman show seems to come naturally. As a talented dancer, she is able to create smooth transitions, all while keeping the audience engaged with the energy that she exudes.
We had a chance to sit down with Hernandez in between rehearsals to talk to her about the show and her performance as Braidie.
Jane Sugiyama: Tell us what "The Shape of A Girl" is about.
Paige Hernandez: "The Shape of A Girl" follows the story of Braidie, a fifteen-year-old teenager who is caught in a situation where she witnesses bullying. She is in a tightly knit girl friendship that began in pre-school, except the dynamic changes; the clique begins to pick on one of the girls in the group which escalates quickly. The play is about following Braidie in her journey where she starts to see things take shape, and eventually she has to make a tough decision--stand by while her best friend bullies another student or stand up for what is right. "The Shape of A Girl" represents a topic that we all grapple with in some way at some point in our lives, and so it ought to ring true for a lot of the audience members.
JS: How easy was it for you to prepare for and connect with your character Braidie?
PH: I don't know if it was easy; I am still working on it. Relateable, definitely. Unfortunately, and fortunately for an actress, there are certain things I can tap into in terms of bullying. I have experienced bullying, so I am able to lean on that to give me a place to start. Then it is about thinking deeper. This play is inspired by a true story that happened in Canada, so I read about it and then I was able to wrap my head around everything. Reading the book helped place me in the time and location, and what all of that meant for Braidie's character.
JS: How do you think "The Shape of A Girl" compares to other anti-bullying pieces like the movie Mean Girls, for example. Do you think it sends the same or a different message?
PH: I think the show is one of the most compelling instances of bullying in a dramatic form. It does not make fun of the issue; there is no satire. What is great about a piece like Mean Girls, is that you can laugh while you watch the pain. "The Shape of A Girl" approaches bullying from a different perspective. The show is something that people can relate to in a more real manner. As opposed to just being entertained, you walk away wanting to make a difference and a change.
JS: What do you hope that audiences take away from your performance?
PH: I hope that they are inspired by Braidie. She goes through a lot of different things, but she does make a choice. She grapples with different sides of the coin. I hope that it enlightens audiences and gives them some options. Ultimately, I hope that viewers become advocates, and that even if they aren't a part of a bullying situation that they can say that they do not stand for it. I want people to have the conviction that they will not tolerate bullying.
JS: Do you have a favorite moment in the show that audiences should look for?
PH: (Laughs) It would have to be when I play eight-year-old Braidie. Her and her friends are obsessed with ponies like "My Little Ponies." There is this whole section where she is playing with her ponies and imagining them. She gives them funny names like "Rainbow Rider," and it's just a lot of fun, and cute of course.
JS: Not only are you a talented actress, but you are also a dancer. Has dancing inspired your acting?
PH: Being a dancer has helped me become a physical storyteller. I remember when I first started, I did not mix the two, but then I discovered that my body is also a great storytelling machine. It has also helped me memorize lines; I have to physicalize the whole thing. There is currently no hip-hop in the show, but maybe Braidie will bust out somewhere in the show. Stay tuned.
See "The Shape of A Girl" live in Wharton Center's Pasant Theatre on Friday, November 15, 2013 at 7:30PM.
Tickets are $12.00 and are available online at whartoncenter.com, at the Auto-Owners Box Office, or by calling 1-800-WHARTON.