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All The Job's A Stage

This is obviously a big week for political performances, but another drama is being played out on a stage in Greenwich Village: an off-Broadway one-woman show entitled No Child. For more than six months and 170 performances, Nilaja Sun has played all the roles in a show about a teacher trying to stage a play with underprivileged kids in the Bronx. “When I wrote this piece, I thought I’d be doing it for three weeks for the standard theatergoing audience,” says Sun, who spent eight years as a guest artist in New York City schools. Critics, however, weren’t the only ones thrilled with No Child; it’s drawn thousands of teachers who’ve found authenticity, solace, and gallows humor in the work. They laugh, for example, when, as principal, Sun announces, “We need all these kids to pass five Regents [exams] in the next two months.” And they commiserate when, as a teacher, she learns that a student’s sibling has been killed by a gang. Dan Lilienthal, a 25-year-old teacher in Brooklyn, is one of many inspired by No Child, in which the main character eventually mounts the student show. “You get so disillusioned,” he says of the job. “So just to know that Nilaja Sun was able to bring her passion to the students, and that it worked” is instructive, he says. “You have a curriculum to teach, but you need to bring yourself.”

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