University of Illinois theatre students will present a free performance of "No Child..." at Parkland Theatre on Tuesday, March 5 at 7:30 p.m. There will be a post-performance discussion about the current state of education.
"No Child..." by the young playwright and performer, Nilaja Sun, is her story of working in the New York City Schools and trying to bring "theatre" to a classroom of challenging young people.
The story of "No Child..." goes something like this: Sun, the performing artist-teacher, arrives at Malcolm X High School intending to put on the play "My Country's Good." It is a play about prisoners sent away to distant Australia in the 1700s, and how they come to recognize their own dignity and worth through performing. For the students at Malcolm X, performing seems just as strange and scary as for the 18th-century prisoners, but through the force of Sun's will, and the surprising affinity of some of the kids for the stage, the play eventually goes on.
"No Child..." is intended to illustrate some of the problems that face teachers and students in today's educational system: Students with difficulties at home must pass through metal detectors that strip away their dignity and must put up with an inadequate building as well as with teachers who are not up to the job. The teachers encounter students who taunt and ignore. Sometimes, the pressures from home--such as the absence of parents which requires siblings to care for one another or a brother killed by a gang--make education an abstract concept. Surviving from day to day is what shapes some lives.
So, will the show go on? Will Ms. Sun give up on teaching? Will the students learn any lesson from this foreign play, and even more foreign setting? Nilaja Sun lays it all out with a colorful cast of characters. Director Latrelle Bright, from the University of Illinois Inner Voices Social Issues Theatre Company, stages the play with energy and rhythm.
During the post-show discussion, audience members will be invited to share their own experiences with the public schools. Some questions that might be discussed are: What difficulties block the way for some students? How can
teachers work with families to reach students? How have contemporary governmental policies made teaching and learning easier or more difficult? What are the qualities in students or teachers that lead to success?
No reservations are required for this performance of "No Child..." and the event is free to the public.