Stage Notes: Hangman School for Girls

Tom Murrin
Lucy Gillespie is a 24-year old writer/performer who was born in Chicago, to an American mom and an English dad. She moved to London when she was five, and then returned at 18 to go to college at Northwestern.  She wrote a novel called The Pith and the Peel, about a woman who kills and eats her husband. Hangman School for Girls is her first play; it's directed by Leta Tremblay, and Gillespie plays the lead.  I spoke with her before a recent rehearsal. 

Hi Lucy.  I was intrigued by the title of your play, and  the fact that it was your first effort for the stage.  Why don't you tell me about it.  
It's about a group of 11-year old girls who have just started school in central London, which is where I grew up. One of them is unable to get along with the others, and so, essentially, it's the story of an outcast, a pariah. She tries to interact with the girls, and tries to get in their circle, but constantly fails. And so, she begins a relationship -- a friendship at first, and then a relationship -- with her desk.  

Her desk?   
Yes. What I was working with, in writing the piece, was using the desk as an extension of her imagination, as a kind of satellite of her imagination. And so, he (the desk is a he) fulfills a lot of her wants and needs, that she isn't always conscious of.   

Can you give me an example? 
I think that it's pretty easy to figure out the type of thing 11 to 14 year old girls start to want and need without realizing.   

I understand that you have acted a lot, and are playing the lead.  
I play Hazel, the outcast, and there are five other actors.   

Is it a one or two act?   
There is no intermission, but there is a very clear second half.  It runs about one and a half to two hours.   

How is this going to be staged?
It's going to be very physical.  The director is working with a lot of choreography and movement.  We're figuring out now how the desk will move around.  Also, with the girls, there's an element of flocking and pantomime.  So we're working on that too.  A lot of the scenes with the girls are seen through Hazels's eyes, so there is a delineation of the girls as they really are, and how they are seen by Hazel.   

What's it like performing your own main character?   
It's been a very interesting experience.  I've come upon a lot of treasures I didn't realize when I wrote it.  The character I play is very different acting it then when I wrote it.  

I notice you use "it" to describe her.   
When I was writing it, it was an "it". Now it's called a "she" or a "me".  When I started to write a play about what makes someone a pariah, someone "hateful" became important, because somehow, with children, it becomes arbitrary as to who is picked on.  But then it becomes reciprocal.  When someone becomes very aggressive, or abrupt, or disinterested, she's not a victim, she really isn't.   

Manhattan Theater Source, 177 MacDougal St., (866) 811-4111. Mar. 10-27, Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m. Additional performances, Mon., Mar. 22, 8 p.m. and Sat., Mar. 27, 2 p.m. $15/$20.

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