‘What womanhood is’

High school seniors Scarlett Thompson and Alexandra Hatch produce their first GIRL Theater show.

Actresses, left to right, Noa Beckham-Chasnoff, Simone Williams, Holo Lue Choy, Atlee Jensen, Alyssa DiVirgilio, and Jillian Duffy of GIRL Theatre rehearse

Joe Sulik

Actresses, left to right, Noa Beckham-Chasnoff, Simone Williams, Holo Lue Choy, Atlee Jensen, Alyssa DiVirgilio, and Jillian Duffy of GIRL Theatre rehearse “Into the Red” in the Bryant Lake Bowl & Theatre on Tuesday afternoon. “Into the Red” premieres Thursday Feb 18 and will run until February 27.

Austen Macalus

Scarlett Thompson and Alexandra Hatch, like most high school seniors, are busy handling school, applying to colleges and making time for friends.
But unlike most of their peers, the two students are the founders of an independent theater company: GIRL Theatre.
Created by Thompson and Hatch last summer, the company will open “Into the Red” Thursday at Bryant Lake Bowl. 
The original piece, written, directed and produced by Thompson and Hatch, is GIRL Theatre’s first production.
“Into the Red” follows the journey of a young girl as she falls asleep. In her dream, she meets a series of women who tell diverse stories regarding the complexities of womanhood.
With a disconnected, tangential style, the piece is a series of scenes about gender-biased education systems, misogynistic comments by news anchors, sexual assault and an overarching sense of fear. 
“All of these things [that women] experience every day, but we never talk about,” Thompson said.
At its core, the show is about expressing female identity.
“It’s not necessarily about social justice issues — we aren’t pushing an agenda like the pay gap — it’s more explaining what womanhood is,” Hatch said.
Longtime friends Thompson and Hatch met while attending St. Paul Conservatory for Performing Artists.
Hatch made her directing debut at age 14, and Thompson has produced a handful of shows. Last year, the two worked together to create an all-female production of “Hair.”
The two girls conceived of GIRL Theater in English class at SPCPA. Thompson and Hatch were inspired after reading Sylvia Plath’s “The Bell Jar” and Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper.” 
“It started by talking about these old female authors,” Thompson said. “Then [Hatch] said, ‘Why don’t we do a show with these ideas?’ ”
After receiving advice from teachers at SPCPA, the two set up GIRL Theatre. 
With auditions held in August, Thompson and Hatch started practice in September. The rehearsal process began as a monthly meeting, in which performers discussed the work of Plath and Gilman, as well as their own experiences.
Thompson said the group used poems as inspiration to create short, improvised scenes.
“We had no idea what the show was going to be. We just had so much faith that something would come together.” 
With time, the group started to see familiar themes arise within their improvisations. The performers decided to combine these moments to form what Thompson called “a string of vignettes.”
“We would start with a discussion, find something that we all had a lot to say about and make a piece about it,” Hatch said. “That’s how most of the scenes came to be.”
With a focus on collaboration and discussion, Thompson and Hatch made sure women were the center of the show. 
The two said women are often limited in theater with their roles onstage and offstage. 
There isn’t a lot of room for female roles in contemporary or older pieces, they said.
“The reason we wanted to do this show so badly is because all of our lives all we have seen are ridiculous portrayals of women onstage,” Thompson said. “Not only can we tell stories about women but we can make them ourselves.” 
For the two women, the show’s purpose is to display understanding and empathy. 
“We want them to see the beauty of womanhood,” Thompson said. 
“Into the Red”
Where Bryant Lake Bowl, 810 W. Lake St., Minneapolis
When 7 p.m. Thursday through Saturday7 p.m. Feb. 25–27
Cost $8–20