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Sunday, April 09, 2006

Encore of play raises curtain on race issues



THE BEAT: CHICAGOLAND

FROM DOWNTOWN AND THE SUBURBS

Grace Aduroja
Published April 9, 2006

OAK PARK -- Cast members of Oak Park and River Forest High School's provocative play "Fires in the Mirror" thought they had had their last curtain call weeks ago.

But administrators have asked the 19-member cast to resurrect the show just for faculty. It uses a string of monologues to recreate a racially charged riot in Brooklyn's Crown Heights neighborhood.

That uproar 15 years ago ignited candid conversations about race in the diverse school's Little Theater auditorium last month.

The Pulitzer Prize-nominated play spurred honest discussions among students and audience members in a community where diversity is a goal and school officials are always exploring ways to close a pervasive achievement gap.

Now administrators hope the avant-garde production will ignite similar conversations among its educators. They have asked the cast to reassemble for a show April 27 during a teacher in-service day.

"The play is sort of a way to have the conversation in a different way than we normally do," said English teacher Avi Lessing, who directed the production.

"Theater is a really safe way to explore some of those emotions."

The play tells the story of a four-day riot that ensued after a Hasidic rabbi's vehicle struck and killed a Guyanese boy, igniting racial tensions in the community. Hours later a Jewish scholar was stabbed to death by a group of black men. Days of unrest followed as cars were burned and stores looted.

"Art does make people talk," said one Oak Park student during a forum after the play. "If there was no art, I don't think we would address serious issues."

Chicago Tribune

Posted by jebratt :: Sunday, April 09, 2006 :: 0 comments

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