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BWW Interview: All-Girl Theater Company's Founders Katie Cappiello & Meg McInerney Talk SLUT, THE PLAY, Opening Today at FringeNYC

The All-Girl Theater Company, founded by two NYU Tisch grads, Katie Cappiello and Meg McInerney, has garnered the attention of some of the most influential women in America with their past productions - including Hillary Clinton, Gloria Steinem, and Amy Poehler. But the duo, along with the the company's group of 14-17 year old girls, are completely focused on a new venture: SLUT, THE PLAY.

SLUT, which opens today at the New York Fringe Festival, and runs through August 25, takes on topical issues from teenage sexual assault to slut-shaming. With a script by Cappiello and McInerney, the show is inspired by the real-life stories of teenaged girls from New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania - and performed by them, as well.

SLUT, THE PLAY is officially billed as: "On a cold New York City night in January, Joey Del Marco puts on her favorite dress, her highest heels, and meets up with her good guy friends George, Luke, and Tim for a little pre-gaming. They hang out, play video games, dance, and drink an entire bottle of Absolut. Everything is typical hazy teenage fun--until they all squeeze into the back of a cab... Inspired by the real world and real-life experiences of the cast members, SLUT bravely explores the sexual assault and slut-shaming of a 16-year-old girl. Through Joey's story and those of girls in her community, audiences will witness the profound power and damaging impact of slut culture."

BroadwayWorld was fortunate enough to chat with Katie and Meg ahead of the show's opening today. Below, check out what they had to say on founding the All-Girl Theater Company, bringing SLUT to the stage, and more!


The All-Girl Theater Company seems like something incredibly special. Where did the inspiration to get it up-and-going come from?
Katie: "Well, we were both teaching and acting. And we both weren't 100 percent feeling our current situations. We knew that we wanted to do something more creative - we wanted to create a space where kids were creating their own content and learning to share their voices, along with getting really good acting training. When we were [young], we would have liked to have a space with others girls to be fun and safe, open and honest. We never had that, and we thought the theatre would be the perfect way to launch something like that.

How did the idea for SLUT, THE PLAY originate from?
Meg: "The idea came from the girls themselves. The way that the classes work is: the girls join the year-long program, and we meet once a week for about three hours, and it starts off with a lot of discussion and debate. And a lot of listening to what's going on with these girls. We all listen to what they're thinking about, what they're feeling, and what's happening to them on a day-to-day basis. From there, we start to pull out themes, and they do a lot of creative writing. And then they do some improv, and then we start to figure out character choices. And then Katie begins to write the script.

So when we started this play back in January 2012, we started to notice right away that these girls, who are 14-17 years old, start to talk a lot about sex and different pressures that they were feeling. And the word 'slut' just kept coming up over and over again - either because they were being called a slut, or they were calling other girls a slut. There was this distinct struggle between wanting to own their sexuality, using this word as a powerful thing and as a badge of honor, and then two seconds later, it's being used against them as a scarlet letter.

You both have spoken in the past about the risks of social and digital media in our culture - particularly on the issues that SLUT, THE PLAY deals with and in the lives of girls. What exactly do you think it perpetuates?
Katie: Oh, yes, it does absolutely. Kids are being targeted 24/7. You don't leave school, and everything shuts down. You leave school, you go home, and everything continues - throughout all hours of the night...It never ends. They're all protected by a screen. It's there, and it's permanent.

What kind of impact do you see these things having on the girls - and other teenagers - on a personal level?
Katie: I think it's just the constant struggle to not only maintain your image in real life, but also your image online. I think sometimes girls feel like they're valued for their sexuality. So they're prompted to post provocative posts or send provocative texts. They're rewarded for it. But the problem is, they're rewarded for it until they're not. Until that text gets forwarded. Until they're slut shamed for that picture. It's this very interesting paradox that they're living.

Meg: The issue too is that they don't have control over that. Because it's now out in the public sphere, they don't get to dictate at which point the line has been crossed. And so the community gets to turn against them and tear them down to increase their own power.

SLUT takes on a really emotional and poignant issue. Do you think theater and the arts have a duty to make statements and attempt to change minds on these sort of things?

Meg: Yes. Absolutely yes. That's exactly why we do what we do, we think theater is the perfect place to do that. It's like: here are five girls, speaking their truth, and the reality of their generation, and you can't turn it off. You can't turn away, you have to sit their and watch it. It's extremely powerful.

Katie: The show is performed by the girls, the girls of our company. Some of them have never been in a play before. We don't audition. We want it to feel authentic. And the best way to represent the teen girl experience is to show the world of teen girls.

Did the girls seem to have any trepidation with opening up on stage?
Katie: No. That's the interesting thing. They genuinely believe in the importance of this message. I think they're determined to show the audience what it's like to spend a day as a teenage girl, growing up in a 'slut culture.' And I think they're excited to take this on.

It seems like it would make for a really authentic and raw experience.
Meg: Yes! That's exactly right. They're living and breathing and it's all there right in front of you.

It appears like the company is doing something right: you've attracted the attention of Gloria Steinem and Hillary Clinton and other extremely influential women, after all.
Katie: (Laughs.) Yeah, yeah. Like those you just mentioned, I think that's why people are responding. They're responding to these girls going up and their speaking their truth. There's humanity in it that everyone can sort of connect to. I think what the girls are saying isn't popular - like what these other women have said throughout their careers - and it makes people uncomfortable. It challenges people. And that's exactly what we believe theater should do. Yes, it should entertain, but you should also leave contemplating something. If you go to the theater and you don't leave changed, I guess I don't think it's really reached its full potential.

If a piece of theater isn't actively working to change something - then what's the point? It feels like something is missing.
Meg: Totally. It's not about preaching or giving solutions to problems. That's not our job. Our job is to just show the reality of it.

So the show opens [today] at the New York Fringe Fest - are there any plans after that to continue SLUT, THE PLAY?
Katie: Yeah! We are actually hosting, along with The New School, The Feminist Press, and Quality Now, a national conference on October 18-19. It's going to feature the play, a documentary, and also panels and discussions. It's great that the show is in a theater, but we also wanted to create a place to continue the discussion afterwards.

Meg: After getting into slut-shaming, we all sort of realized the complexity of all of this this. So it's important, if you want real change to happen, to be able to create a space where we can talk about it and all of the different components that lead us to his culture that we have.

Aside from the conference, what's next for The All-Girl Theatre Company?
Katie: We're partnering with some really wonderful women's organizations, and I think for now, the goal is to bring [SLUT, THE PLAY] around to different communities. We really admire The Vagina Monologues model...we see this as a great opportunity to engage girls all around the country with this issue. So that's in the works, and we'll see what happens!

Meg: We're just taking it one step at a time.


SLUT, THE PLAY runs at the Lynn Redgrave Theater, Fringe Venue #14, 45 Bleecker Street, beginning today, August 19 at 2pm. Additional performances include: Aug., 21 at 7:30pm, Aug. 22 at 5:30pm (followed by a talkback with the cast), Aug. 23 at 9:30pm, and Aug. 25 at 4:45pm.

For tickets, visit FringeNYC.org.


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From This Author Tyler Peterson

Tyler is one of BroadwayWorld's lead News Desk Editors, covering breaking Broadway and theatre news daily. He studied Public Relations and Creative Writing at Loyola (read more...)