‘No Child ...’ presents the ongoing struggle in public education

11 no child chalkboardNilaja Sun’s “No Child …” is a play about a play. The setting is a public high school in the Bronx in 2006. The characters are students, teachers and faculty.

On the surface, as the title indicates, the story highlights the issues of the public education system. Just below the surface is a powerful statement about the soft bigotry of low expectations placed on economically disadvantaged students.
Teaching artist Ms. Sun, played by Tara Whitney Rison, comes into Malcolm X High School to lead a 10th-grade class to present a play. Her enthusiasm is greeted with scorn, bad language and bad attitudes. Over the next six weeks, she slowly breaks down barriers. Her steadfast willingness to see the potential in every student encourages loyalty and commitment from the class.

The students are caricatures of troubled teenagers — the class clown, the thug, the international student, the shy kid and so on. While the performances bring a lot of laughs, there is a serious undertone that kids who are told repeatedly that they are the worst will become the worst.

Director Kaja Dunn brings together a fantastic cast of five actors who play 16 characters. It is a treat to see each of these actors shift between two to four characters, sometimes between sentences. The dialogue is fast-paced and gives the audience a peek into how a lone teacher must wrangle a classroom of rowdy students.

The cast includes Ja’Maul Johnson, Andrea Somera, Brandon Rivera and Monet Noelle Marshall. All deliver fine performances in their various roles. Johnson also serves as the narrator in his role as the school janitor who grounds the story with history and details.

An admirable quality of the play is the lack of finger-pointing, which has become the norm in the discourse on public education. Bureaucracy, bad teachers, bad students, uninvolved parents — honestly, there is enough blame to go around. But Dunn and the cast present the story as students and teachers across this country see it — the reality of struggle. “No Child …” is the presentation of the struggle of children to be accepted, to be loved and encouraged. It is the presentation of the struggle of teachers to reach their students.

Ms. Sun’s selection of play is apropos to the struggle of many disadvantaged students. She has the class present Timberlake Wertenbaker’s “Our Country’s Good,” which explores how drama and language can become a refuge from the hopelessness of grim conditions.

The play itself is adapted from the Thomas Keneally novel “The Playmaker,” a story about a group of British Royal Marines and convicts in a penal colony in Australia in the 1700s.

While such an origin story may not seem applicable to public school students in the 21st century, it shows the restorative power of drama as a means of giving purpose and a sense of community to a group of social outcasts. It gives credence to the idea that people born without a chance deserve a chance to become something better.

Simply highlighting the similarities between characters in a story about prisoners in the 1700s and students in modern America doesn’t necessarily make any profound statement that fixes any problems in public education. But it does point out that there is value in the effort of even one teacher who is able to reach one student.

The Cape Fear Regional Theatre is presenting “No Child …” through Nov. 17. For information on ticket discounts for teachers and military, call the box office at 910-323-4233.

The Fayetteville Ladies Power Lunch moves to Cape Fear Botanical Garden

14 PiaEvery quarter the Fayetteville Ladies Power Lunch hosts a luncheon for the women of this community. Not only does it include a meal and a keynote speaker, there are prizes, a Shopportunity Expo with a variety of vendors and a wine tasting, too. The next luncheon is set for Nov. 14 at Cape Fear Botanical Garden.

 A perfect fit for this event, the botanical garden offers a professional yet serene setting for the gathering.

The Fayetteville Ladies Power Lunch board and partnering sponsor, Women's View Magazine, have been working diligently to heighten guests' experience going into 2020. "Changing the venue and caterer are a couple of the modifications that you will see going into this final event of the 2019 season. We think that everyone will agree that the Cape Fear Botanical Gardens offers a magical space and Two Brothers Catering provides top notch cuisine and we're very excited that we could make those changes happen in November," said Paulette Naylor, a member of the advisory board for the Power Lunch.

Doors open at 10 a.m. with the Shopportunity Expo. Previous events have hosted fitness centers, locally owned and operated pet stores, home businesses, spas, events venues, home interior firms and more. Enjoy a glass of wine while shopping and networking before the midday meal is served.

The formal portion of the luncheon starts at noon. The Vine will cater this month’s meal. The catering company provides delicious fare for all kinds of events, including weddings and gallery openings as well as business events.

Pia Duncan is this month’s keynote speaker. Duncan is a college educator, an entrepreneur and the cofounder of Ben and Pia Duncan Foundation. According to its Facebook page, the BPDF is a charitable organization that seeks to “pioneer initiatives that will bridge the opportunity gap for youth in the areas of Health & Science, Arts, Global Education, Social Justice, and College accessibility for youth in the community. … The Ben and Pia Duncan Foundation strives to instill these principles in youth and in the community to help bridge the gap of opportunity to children and youth. The foundation will support education, through the granting of scholarships; provide valuable information, knowledge and resources; and to provide a framework for new and innovative research to help narrow racial gaps and to improve the quality of life of all Americans across a wide spectrum of areas.”

Lunch ends at 2 p.m. with plenty of time left to continue shopping and networking before the event ends at 2:30 p.m.

While the mission of the FLPL is to inspire, educate, empower and celebrate women in the community, the organization also supports local nonprofits. This year, the Power Lunch has chosen education as its charity of choice platform. A portion of the luncheon proceeds will benefit the Kidsville News Literacy and Education Foundation, a 501c3 nonprofit organization that provides funding assistance for reading and educational resources to school children in Cumberland and Hoke Counties.

Tickets cost 45 dollars and are available at https://www.fayettevilleladiespowerlunch.com. Sponsorships are also available.

Pictured: Pia Duncan, the keynote speaker for the Fayetteville Ladies Power Lunch

‘No Child ...’ explores the education system

10 No ChildWith education being a hot topic on the county, state and national levels, discussions about the public school system are plentiful. By taking a humorous approach “No Child …” gives meaningful insight into the education system. The first show at the Cape Fear Regional Theater opens Oct. 31.

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

Patti LaBelle set to perform at the Crown

11 PattiMost of America knows Patti LaBelle for her voice and music career spanning four decades, but she is a true entrepreneur in every sense of the word. If you’ve missed her on TV, or on the Broadway stage, the Crown Theater presents music icon LaBelle in concert Friday, Nov. 8, at 7 p.m.  LaBelle, born Patricia Louise Holte, is known as the “Godmother of Soul.” She began her musical career as lead singer and front woman of the vocal group, Patti LaBelle and the Bluebelles. She is a dramatic soprano who has sold more than 50 million records worldwide.

LaBelle became a mainstream solo star in 1984 following the success of the singles “If Only You Knew,” “New Attitude” and “Stir It Up.” In 1986, she scored with the No. 1 album, “Winner In You” and the No. 1 duet single “On My Own,” with Michael McDonald.      

Outside of touring she has written six books and started her own product line of cakes, sauces, cobblers and sweet potato pie. She has her own cooking show, “Patti LaBelle’s Place,” which premiered its second season on the Cooking Channel in 2017.

Her humanitarian efforts include being an advocate for adoption, diabetes, cancer, HIV/AIDS and many other causes. In 1994, LaBelle was diagnosed with diabetes and became the spokesperson for the American Diabetes Association.    
LaBelle has been inducted into the the Grammy Hall of Fame, the Hollywood Walk of Fame and the Apollo Theater Hall of Fame.       
Ticket cost is $55, $70, $95 and $135. For more information call 910-438-4100.

Fall fun abounds in Cumberland County

12 01 d0279a870e17b863288a00370f95dc227b3b4adbFall is in the air, and with it comes a bevy of activities ranging from hayrides and pumpkin patches to haunted trails and houses and even zombie-related events. Here are some favorites you won’t want to miss.

The Poe House at the Museum of the Cape Fear Historical Complex may have a few skeletons in its closets. Come find out Oct. 23-25 as the museum partners with Gilbert Theater for the eight season of “Hallowe’en Revels: Night Tours of the 1897 Poe House.” This year’s theme is “invoking spirits.”  Call 910-500-4240 for more information.

Maybe the Poe House isn’t the only local dwelling with ghostly visitors. The Sandford House at Heritage Square in downtown Fayetteville is said to have spirits with unfinished businesses lurking in its halls. Through Oct. 31, join Q98, Magic 106.9, Rock 103 and WFNC along with the Association of Paranormal Study to investigate Hauntings at Heritage Square. Participants in each tour will be provided ghost hunting equipment for the event. Tours last about 90 minutes. Call 910-401-9857 for tickets and information.

12 02 Zombie WalkIf you’ve never been to a Zombie Walk or a Zombie Prom, head downtown Oct. 25. In addition to 4th Friday festivities, prepare for a zombie invasion. It’s open to everyone. The Zombie Walk preparty starts at 6 p.m. at Headquarters Library on Maiden Lane. There will be music, face painting, costume contests and more. Johnny Awesome will be the master of ceremonies and will conduct the walk and will be the MC until participants leave for the official Zombie Prom After Party at The Tap House, which is next door to Huske Hardware. The Zombie Walk starts at 8 p.m. — only those dressed as zombies will be part of the street walk. There will also be three bands, The Answers, KEYSE and The Sherman Neckties. Search Fayetteville Zombie Walk & Prom 2019 Downtown of Facebook for more information.

If you are looking for something more low key to do on Oct. 25, check out the The All-American City Jazz Festival: Beach and Shag Music at Festival Park. The jazz festival runs through Oct. 27 and includes local as well as nationally renowned performers. Call 910-987-2426 to learn more.

 Halloween at the Boo-tanical Garden is the perfect family-friendly event for the younger set. Oct. 25-27, the Cape Fear Botanical Garden welcomes families to come and trick or treat throughout the garden and enjoy hayrides and lawn games. Visit capefearbg.org for details.

The Stoney Point Trail of Terror is a hair-raising tradition for many in the area. Through Nov. 2, venture into the darkness at the rear of the Stoney Point Fire Department property for an experience that 12 03 N1404P17013Cincludes state-of-the-art sound, lighting and environmental effects and live actors determined to scare even the most stoic of visitors. Other events at the Stoney Point FD include a Zombie Rampage. Load up your paintball marker and take on the field of zombies as they come you. A more child-friendly event is the Trail of Candy. This takes place during daylight hours Saturday, Oct. 26 from noon until 2 p.m. Bring the kids, enjoy a costume contest, trick or treating, concessions and more. Call 910-424-0694 to learn more.

Gallberry Corn Maze is one of several local mazes. Through Nov. 3, guests can enjoy 12 acres of nothing but fun. There are nearly 20 attractions designed to keep the entire family engaged —  farm animals, pig racing, hayrides, a jumping pillow, bouncy ball corral, corn hole, Spookley the Square Pumpkin barn, covered picnic area, a giant corn shack, pony lasso, barrel train rides, photo ops, double barrel tube slide, a fire pit, fantastic food, hay mountain, air cannons and much more. Find out more at gallberrycornmaze.com.

Dirtbag Ales and Rogue Alpha Athletics will host the Dirtbag Ales Halloween Beer Mile Oct. 26 at Dirtbag Ales Brewery and Taproom from 5-8 p.m. Come in your best Halloween costume and run, jog, walk, crawl the 1 mile-ish course and enjoy four 10-ounce beers from Dirtbag Ales brewery. Participants must be 21 or older to drink beer. Search the Dirtbag Ales Halloween Beer Mile on Facebook for details.

Trick or treat at the Poe House Oct. 26 from 11 a.m.-4 p.m. While you are there, search for ravens in the Poe House, play old-fashioned games, listen to a Halloween story and enjoy a free concert. Joy the Clown will be there, too, performing magic tricks. And don’t miss the costume contest, too. Admission is free. Call 910-500-4240 to learn more.

Arnette Park will host a Fall Festival and Trunk or Treat Saturday, Oct. 26, from 4-6 p.m.  Enjoy food, candy, games, face painting, and inflatables for children. The event is hosted by Sapona Road Church. Find out more at https://www.saponaroadchurch.com. Everything is free, but registration is requested.
12 04 Halloween
Count Dracula’s Livery and Carriage Services will be downtown Oct. 31 to offer Perfectly Horrible Carriage Rides to kids and their families from 3-8 p.m. Dracula’s carriage, pulled by horses black as death, will rumble over the brick-paved streets of old downtown for a heart-stopping ride. Photo ops with the count are part of the adventure, so come in your best costume. Call 910-286-3979 to make reservations. Tickets cost $5 for children under 10 and $10 for adults. 



12 05 Trick or Treat at the Poe House 2018



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