URBANA — The University of Illinois Department of Theatre continues to take a look at national political topics with its latest production, "No Child," which opened Wednesday at Krannert Center for the Performing Arts.
The play, to be presented four more times in the Studio Theatre, explores the U.S. education system and the enactment of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001.
The play stems from the New York City-based Epic Theatre Ensemble having commissioned playwright-performer Nijala Sun in 2004 to perform her experiences as a teaching artist in several New York City schools.
Sun played multiple characters in her one-person show, including a teacher leading 10th-graders in staging Timberlake Wertenbaker's play, "Our Country's Good." Sun received several awards, among them an Obie Award for performance, the Lucille Lortel Award for best solo production and an Outer Critics Circle Award for best new American play.
In 2008, solo performers and ensembles of actors began to perform "No Child" nationwide — the UI production features UI undergraduate and graduate students.
The play uses a narrative structure that reveals the power of theater to form a human connection based on empathy and compassion, dramaturg Michelle Salerno wrote for the UI theater program.
In "No Child," Sun's character brings theater into the classroom as she directs "Our Country's Good," set in 1789 in an Australian penal colony. The play portrays British marines directing convicts in a performance of George Farquhar's restoration comedy "The Recruiting Officer."
"Through the use of 'Our Country's Good,' Ms. Sun asks her students to find themselves in this imagined world that might seem quite different from their own in order to draw connections between the circumstances in the texts and create a collaborative community," Salerno wrote. "This play-within-a-play construct enables Sun to portray the rich power of the theater throughout history and to invoke our common desire to share stories and connect with our communities."
Latrelle Bright, director of the UI's Inner Voices Social Issues Theatre program, is guest-directing "No Child" for the UI Department of Theatre.
A director, performer and arts advocate, Bright was the founding artistic director of The Renaissance Guild, San Antonio's Black Theatre Company; the director of audience development for Voices of the South in Memphis; and assistant program director for the Heifer Theatre Project with Heifer International, a world hunger relief and sustainability organization based in Little Rock, Ark.
If you go
What: University of Illinois Department of Theatre presents "No Child," a play by Nilaja Sun, directed by guest director Latrelle Bright
When: Continues at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday; 3 p.m. Sunday
Where: Studio Theatre, Krannert Center for the Performing Arts, 500 S. Goodwin Ave., U
Tickets: Adults, $16; senior citizens and students, $15; UI students and youths, $10 (tickets are two for the price of one today)
Information: 333-6280; http://www.krannertcenter.com .
Note: This production contains adult content