How cast members used an internet sensation as a new way to stay connected

Due to Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker’s “stay-at-home” order, performances of Jocelyn Bioh’s hit show School Girls; Or, the African Mean Girls Play, directed by Lili-Anne Brown, had to be suspended on March 13.

It was a decision that hit the show’s artists especially hard having spent several weeks in rehearsals and closing down before the official Opening Night.

That’s why when cast members reached out about editing together a fun video for the #DontRushChallenge, we were excited to see what they’d create! For the uninitiated, the #DontRushChallenge was started by 20-year-old Toluwalase Asolo from the U.K. and her friends as a way to have some fun while social distancing.

Asolo told Teen Vogue “We understand that in a period like this with nothing to do, a lot of people may slip into depression due to high levels of inactivity and idleness… So we decided to highlight the togetherness in isolation.”

The friends, “who have Congolese, Nigerian, Sierra Leonean and Turks and Caicos Islander origins, planned the video sequence of handing off the makeup brush and collected their respective footage for the challenge via WhatsApp.” The name comes from the title of the song used in the video, “Don’t Rush” by British rap duo Young T and Bugsey.

Watch the original video on Twitter >>.

As an internet phenomenon started by Black women to celebrate their friendship and embrace their beauty with or without makeup, it was a perfect challenge for the company of School Girls to take on.

Director Lili-Anne Brown shared:

It was Lanise Shelley’s) idea! [Shelley plays Eloise Amponsah in the play.] We of course have a robust text thread that’s been going since we were in rehearsals.  Lanise put a link to a #dontrushchallenge video on there one day and we were all like “that’s so cute!” and she said “we should do it!” and didn’t let the idea drop. She “directed” it…planned the order and the “catches” and that we would use the School Girls makeup bags we all got on our last day at the theater.

This was the best thing for morale ever! This production has been the gift that keeps on giving. To be able to do the taping right as the shutdown was happening, with so many industry friends present who had also just been shut down. It was a community moment. Then to be able to stream it to the world when we can’t go to the theater. We wanted to keep making things that felt fun and relatable and empowering if we could, keep giving the gift. It was energizing to get glammed up after being in sweats for weeks, and to pump each other up with compliments, and to hold on to that strong teamwork even through distancing. And it made people smile!

Check out the School Girls version of the #DontRushChallenge: