The online student newspaper of Palisades Charter High School


The online student newspaper of Palisades Charter High School


The online student newspaper of Palisades Charter High School


These “Mean Girls” Model Effective Collaboration

Zacharie Sergenian

Though the film was released almost 20 years ago, the “Mean Girls” phenomenon continues to have a palpable presence at Pali. Sociology teachers show the film to their students year after year, Spirit Weeks relentlessly bring back Wear Pink Wednesdays and it would be a far-fetched effort to find a student oblivious to the “Mean Girls” cult. So it was only a matter of time before Pali’s theater department took on the musical adaptation by Tina Fey. For the past month, Pali’s resident thespians spent day after day at Mercer Hall, rehearsing in preparation for opening night. 

In the musical, the protagonist Cady Heron enrolls in a public high school after being homeschooled in Africa for most of her life. An unsocialized 16-year-old, she struggles to understand high school’s bathroom restrictions, let alone the unspoken rules of its social scene. Throughout the course of the musical, she learns that survival of the fittest takes on a different, more calculated, manifestation in high school than it does in the wild.  

Nancy Fracchiolla, Pali’s drama teacher and director of “Mean Girls,” said she always seeks to promote comedy at Pali. She currently produces the school’s Friday Night Live comedy show and teaches an improv class. 

“I am a huge fan of Tina Fey. I think she’s phenomenal,” Fracchiolla said, adding that she also appreciates the real-world themes that make Fey’s comedy relatable. “It’s all about young girls and power structures and alpha-apex predators.” 

Fracchiolla’s persistent love of comedy and interest in these intricate female dynamics led to her selection of “Mean Girls” as Pali’s fall musical.

With double the number of auditioners than available spots, Fracchiolla did not struggle to find actors eager to try out for the musical. Rather, she said she is always “inevitably letting someone down.”

That said, once Fracchiolla and a team of instructors honed in on casting, preparations for the musical commenced, aided by students whose commitment Fracchiolla described as “really inspiring.” 

“I’ve never been disappointed with the talent and drive at Pali,” she said. “It makes me want to work.” 

Annika Johansson, who was cast as the school’s Queen Bee Regina George, has been anticipating auditions since summer when she caught wind of Fracchiolla’s selection for the fall musical. Several days of tryouts consisted of vocal auditions and callbacks before the cast list was announced, upon which the fever for “Mean Girls” extended beyond the walls of Mercer Hall, and students across Pali began to take interest in what was happening at auditions. 

“People are curious [about the auditions], but not invasively, it’s fun to be able to vent about it, see the excitement and how it all works out,” Johansson said. 

After she began collaborating with the cast and crew, Johansson said she grew to treasure the community formed by these theater productions. 

“Having so many other people who are also so into the show [and] are so talented is really fun,” Johansson said. “I get to sit and talk to my friends during breaks, and I love seeing them beyond the show.”

With only five weeks to prepare, the cast and crew said they rehearsed relentlessly in preparation for their two-week run. 

“I’m still learning how to balance [musicals] with school, but it’s so worth it,” Johansson said.

To help offset these difficulties, Fracchiolla provided opportunities throughout rehearsals to get work done, and encouraged the cast and crew to “keep up with their schoolwork, get plenty of sleep, stay hydrated and keep their eyes on the prize because it’s coming.”

Leading up to the long-awaited opening night is Tech Week (or as Fracchiolla calls it, “Hell Week”), which consists of seven days of demanding rehearsals. This is when the set is tested, the show is fine-tuned and the team is kept racing around Mercer Hall until the rehearsal ends at 9 p.m. For actors like Johansson, Tech Week is a welcome adrenaline rush.

“The suspension builds up, it’s so exciting,” Johansson said.

Tech Week is also a critical time for the crew and production team, as they must seamlessly merge their work with that of the actors. 

One such vital component of the show is the costumes department, headed by juniors Natalie Alpert and Henry Sims. Costuming is a collaborative effort between the costume team, who assist in sourcing pieces and conducting quick changes, which are time-strained costume changes backstage.

Johansson said she greatly appreciates the contributions of the costumes team. 

“Being able to have all these amazing costumes and quick changes is incredible; it transforms the show,” she said. “When it works out, it’s so rewarding.”

Alpert and her team said they have an extensive thought process for each costume, finding inspiration wherever possible. For “Mean Girls,” they foraged for hours through thrift stores and cast members’ wardrobes to find the perfect pieces representing each character. 

“We definitely get inspiration from Broadway, but also other schools, or online — we make some of our own [character] boards,” Alpert said. “The ensemble has to wear costumes which are more dressed to blend in, whereas the main cast needs to stand out.”

Working with costumes provides Alpert with a creative outlet which she said goes beyond fashion.

“What I love about costumes is that it’s not just putting clothes together,” she said. “[It’s] telling a story. A character’s clothes change with their growth.”

Costume design also contributed to the show’s humor. “Mean Girls” features a quintessential Halloween scene in which high school costume norms are lost on Cady, who shows up to a party as an elaborate corpse bride amongst a sea of “sexy” outfits.

“The Halloween costumes are really fun to create, we’re really excited for that and [for audience] reactions,” Alpert said. 

Johansson, a long-time fan of “Mean Girls,” believes that the musical, though slightly cliche, speaks to a version of reality through niche high school experiences.

“Wanting to be either a follower or at the top of the food chain, is something we don’t experience as much [at Pali], but there are definitely tamer versions,” Johansson said. “Everyone has insecurities and it helps to show it’s normal and actually great to have differences.”

Johansson believes that though the roles of the actors and crew are vastly different, both are vital to the show’s outcome.

“I could never do [the crew’s] job. They really put the show together,” Johannson said of the play’s tech crew.

Fusing a variety of creative and technical roles, the “Mean Girls” production pricked up ears at Pali through its comedy, raunch and commentary this October.

“We have five weeks to put on a Broadway show,” Fracchiolla said. And Pali’s musical theater collaborators ensured its execution.

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About the Contributors
Lily Hunt
Lily Hunt, Staff Writer
Lily Hunt, a junior, is excited to begin her first year as a staff writer with Tideline. She is hoping to expand her writing and storytelling skills on a journalistic level. At Pali, she participates in the film program, as well as Junior State of America. She is excited to fuse her longtime passions for film, politics, and writing through her Tideline experience. Outside of campus, she can be found rewatching Scream, scouring for concert tickets she missed the presale for or making carrot cake.  
Zacharie Sergenian
Zacharie Sergenian, Staff Illustrator
Zacharie Sergenian is a first-year staff illustrator for Tideline and is excited to work for the publication. Outside of school, Zacharie plays guitar (bass and electric) and has a deep love for making music with friends.