The play, written by Nilaja Sun, is about her experience as a teaching artist who comes into a New York City classroom in 2006. With four years of teaching under her belt and a wealth of great ideas, she sets out to put on a play at the school, which is the worst-performing school in New York City’s district.
“It’s a story of a person coming to terms with the wonderfulness and resilience of the students that a lot of people have cast off, but also coming to terms with the education system and what’s guaranteed from a free public education,” said the play’s director, Kaja Dunn.
The stars of the show are Ja’Maul Johnson, Tara Whitney Rison, Andrea Somera, Brandon Rivera, Monet Noelle Marshall.
Rison plays Ms. Sun, an actor and educator who encounters experiences she’s never had before at the new school. She has to learn about herself and help students reflect on their lives to help them realize they can be better than what people expect them to be. In contrast, Rison plays Mrs. Kennedy, a seasoned administrator who, after working 17 years as a principal, has seen it all.
Somera plays Ms. Tam, Xiomara, Phillip and Mrs. Projensky. Ms. Tam is a teacher who worked in a law firm and is new to the world of education. Phillip, one of the students, is shy and Ms. Sun helps him get out of his shell.
The characters have different backgrounds and perspectives and learn about themselves and each other.
The show is humorous but has serious underlayers, so the theater recommends the play for ages 13 and up.
The show’s set design will place the audience back in high school. “From the minute you cross into the theater, it’s like you’re falling through the wardrobe into Narnia, but instead of Narnia, you’re going into the Bronx,” said Mary Kate Burke, the CFRT artistic director. The seating for the production will be onstage.
The play is a celebration of education and teaching, the power of art and the difference that good teachers can make to a group of children.
The show will have a “Red for Ed” night, which is a teachers’ night that will offer a 25% discount and complimentary wine tasting to educators. In conjunction with the Junior League, CFRT is having a teacher basket giveaway. On CFRT’s Facebook page, people had the opportunity to nominate a teacher who impacted them for the chance to win.
CFRT also has a program where, once a semester, they pick a show that 11th graders across Cumberland County can see for free with their English classes. “No Child ...” is that show for this semester.
On Nov. 6, Sun will attend the student matinee. After the evening show, there will be a talkback where the audience can ask questions.
The play runs through Nov. 17. For more information or to buy tickets, call 910-323-4233. The cast pictured from L-R:The cast from L-R: Brandon Rivera, Monet Noelle Marshall, Tara Whitney Rison, Andrea Somera, Ja’Maul Johnson