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Study Guide

“Hush! You don’t know unless you’ve been in the schools on a day-to-day basis. Hush! You don’t know unless you been a teacher, administrator, student, or custodial staff. Hush! Cuz you could learn a little some- thin’.” -- Janitor Baron, No Child...



yracuse Stage is committed to providing students with rich theatre experiences that connect to and reveal what it is to be human. Research shows that children who participate in or are exposed to the arts show higher academic achievement, stronger self-esteem, and improved ability to plan and work toward a future goal. Many students in our community have their first taste of live theatre through Syracuse Stage’s outreach programs. Last season more than 30,000 students from across New York State attended or participated in the Bank of America Children’s Tour, Backstory performances, artsEmerging, the Young Playwrights Festival, and our Student Matinee Program. We gratefully acknowledge the corporations and foundations who support our commitment to in-depth arts education for our community. CHILDRENS TOUR


Kathy & Dan Mezzalingua


with additional support by

The Kochian Family The Bass Family


The Howard L. Green Foundation The Golub Foundation

09/10 SEASON CLASSROOM STUDY GUIDE Content Written and Collected by Len Fonte Editing, Design and Layout by Michelle Scully

CONTENTS Timothy Bond

Producing Artistic Director Syracuse Stage & SU Drama

820 E Genesee Street Syracuse, NY 13210 www.SyracuseStage.org

4. 5. 7. 8. 9. 12. 13.

Introduction & Planning Your Visit Teaching Theatre Title Page/Credits About the Play Context Sources & Resources Syracuse Stage Season 2010-11

Director of Educational Outreach

Lauren Unbekant (315) 443-1150 Manager of


Educational Outreach

Michelle Scully (315) 442-7755 Group Sales & Student Matinees

Tracey White (315) 443-9844

Since 1849 National Grid and its predecessor companies have been part of the Syracuse community, helping to meet the energy needs of over two million Upstate New York customers. We are proud to contribute to the quality of life through the energy we deliver and through the many ways we give back to the communities we serve.

with additional support by

Box Office

(315) 443-3275

EDUCATIONAL OUTREACH AT SYRACUSE STAGE Syracuse Stage is Central New York’s premiere professional theatre. Founded in 1974, Stage has produced more than 220 plays in 36 seasons including numerous world and American premieres. Each season, upwards of 90,000 patrons enjoy an exciting mix of comedies, dramas and musicals featuring leading designers, directors and performers from New York and across the country, supported by a full-time and seasonal staff of artisans, technicians and administrators.

The Bank of America CHILDREN’S TOUR brings high-energy, interactive, and culturally diverse performances to elementary school audiences The BACKSTORY Program brings history to life, as professional actors portray historical figures in classrooms and other venues artsEMERGING takes students on an in-depth exploration of our mainstage season using a multi-cultural, multi-arts lens The YOUNG PLAYWRIGHTS FESTIVAL challenges students to submit original tenminute plays for a chance to see their work performed at Syracuse Stage

Find us on:



hen the first cavedweller got up to tell a story, theatre began. Almost every culture has some sort of live performance tradition to tell stories. Television and film may have diminished the desire for access to theatre, but they have not diminished the importance.

Live theatre gives each audience member an opportunity to connect with the performers in a way he/she never could with actors on a televission or movie screen. The emotions can be more intense because the events are happening right in front of the audience. In the classroom, theatre can be an effective teaching tool. The New York State Teaching Standards value students’observation of and participation in theatrical performances, both in traditional settings and classroom exercises. We at Syracuse Stage hope that our Study Guides will help you discover a multitude of possibilities for integrating this season’s productions into your lesson plans. We encourage you to delve deep into our plays with your students: examining not just the story and its themes, but also the manner in which it is told — the casting, visual design, sound design, movement and choreography, and dialogue. If we can be of any further assistance toward this end, please feel free to call our Education Department at (315) 443-1150.


“Theatre brings life to life.”

Zelda Fichandler

Founding Artistic Director Arena Stage, Washington DC

PLANNING your visit PROMPT ARRIVAL gives your students plenty of time to arrive, find their seats, and get situated. We ask that you arrive 30 minutes prior to the performance.

BUSSES should load and unload students on E Genesee

St, where red cones will indicate bus-only parking. Please do not block the Centro Bus Stop at the corner.

USHERS will escort you to your seats. We request that

teachers and chaperones distribute themselves among the students, and help us to keep students in their seats once seated.

BACKPACKS, cameras, food, and drink are not

allowed into the theatre, nor can we store them. Please leave these items at school or on the bus.

PHOTOGRAPHS or video taken from the audience can be illegal, disruptive, and sometimes dangerous. These devices, including cell phones, will be confiscated.

SNACKS & SODA, whenever possible, will be available during intermission for $1. These are to be consumed in the lobby only.

RESTROOMS are located in the main lobby, but

please only allow students to exit during a performance in the case of an emergency.


Instead of instructing students to remain totally silent, please discuss the difference between appropriate responses (laughter, applause, participation when requested) and inappropriate noise (talking, texting, etc).





Any piece of theatre is comprised of multiple art forms. As you explore the play with your students, examine the use of:


How are each of these art forms used in the performance? Why are they used? How do they help to tell the story?


Teaching Theatre




Most (but not all) plays begin with a script — a story to be told and a blueprint of how to tell it. In his famous treatise, The Poetics, the ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle outlined

SIX ELEMENTS OF DRAMA that playwrights are mindful of to this day:

Plot What is the story line? Language What What happened before the play started? What does each character want? What do they do to achieve their goals? What do they stand to gain/lose? Theme What ideas are wrestled with in the play? What questions does the play pose? Does it present an opinion on those questions, or leave it to the audience to decide? Character Who are the people in the story? What is their relationship to one another? Why do they do what they do? How do their age/status/etc affect them?

do the characters say? How do they say it? When do they say it? Do they speak to one character differently than another? Why?

Music How do music

and sound help to tell this story?

Spectacle What

visual elements support the play? This could include: puppets, scenery, costumes, dance, movement, and more. Other Elements: Conflict/Resolution, Action, Improvisation, Non-verbal communication, Staging, Humor, Realism and other styles, Metaphor, Language, Tone, Pattern and repetition, Emotion, Point of view.

ACTIVITYAt its core, drama is about characters working toward goals and overcoming obstacles. Ask students to use their bodies and voices to create characters who are: very old, very young, very strong, very weak, very tired, very energetic, very cold, very warm. Have their characters interact with one another. Give them an objective to fulfil despite their environmental obstacles. Later, recap by asking how these obstacles affected their character and the pursuit of his/her objectives. 5

Teaching Theatre


Most plays utilize designers to create the visual world of the play through scenery, costumes, lighting, and more. These artists use


to communicate information about the world within the play and its characters.


Have students discuss these elements BEFORE attending the performance and ask them to pay special attention to how these elements are used in the production’s design. Whether your students are observing a piece of visual art like a painting or a piece of performance art like a play, allow them first to notice the basic elements, then encourage them to look deeper into why these elements are used the way they are.

LINE can have length, width, texture, direction and curve. There are 5 basic varieties: verticle, horizontal, diagonal, curved, and zig-zag.

SHAPEis two-dimensional

and encloses space. It can be geometric (eg. squares and circles), man-made, or free-form.

FORMis three-dimensional. It encloses

space and fills space. It, too, can be geometric (eg. cubes and cylinders), man-made, or free-form.

SPACEis defined and determined by

shapes and forms. Positive space is enclosed by shapes and forms, while negative space exists around them.

COLORhas three basic properties: HUE is the name of the color (eg. red, blue, green), INTENSITY is the strength of the color (bright or dull), VALUE is the range of lightness to darkness.

TEXTURErefers to the “feel”

of an object’s surface. It can be smooth, rough, soft, etc. Textures may be ACTUAL (able to be felt) or IMPLIED (suggested visually through the artist’s technique). 6


Timothy Bond

Jeffrey Woodward

Producing Artistic Director

Managing Director






Sept. 21 - Oct. 10 One actor portrays sixteen characters in this entertaining account of an idealistic young artist who attempts to teach a class of under-challenged 10th graders. Funny and buoyant, yet never shying away from the sobering truths of the urban lives and neighborhoods it depicts, No Child . . . celebrates the positive difference one passionate person and a class of inspired kids can make in a troubled place. Whether you’re a student, a teacher or a parent, you will be moved by the power of this relevant, exuberant and uplifting show. 7


Reena L. Golden


About play

Reenah Golden is a performance poet, spoken word artist, social activist and educator. For over 15 years Reenah has been using The Stage to educate, affect social change, and create new ways of thinking. A native of Rochester, NY and graduate of Rochester Institute of Technology, Reenah is co-founder of Kuumba Consultants; an arts-in-education agency dedicated to matching artists of color with youth agencies and schools seeking quality arts & cultural programming. Kuumba Consultants writes and delivers curriculum-based programs including arts residencies, workshops, and performances throughout Rochester, NY. In 2006, she founded Slam High, a performance poetry program for teens which has recieved national acclaim. She has recieved several local, national and international grants and awards for her work including a Shoolman Children’s Educational Foundation grant and Partners of the Americas Education and Culture travel grants. Reenah is a two-time New York State Council on the Arts Individual Artist Awardee, a Poets & Writers grant recipient and the 2006 Writers & Books Teacher of Young People Literary Awardee. Internationally, Reenah has delivered presentations, residencies, workshops and professional development in Antigua, Belize, Montreal, Spain, Toronto and Trinidad. She also speaks and presents regularly at arts, cultural and education conferences including; commonGround, National Conference of Teachers of English (NCTE) and Partners of the Americas.

Nilija Sun Nilaja Sun is the solo performer and writer of the Off-Broadway smash No Child..., which concluded its run at the Barrow Street Theatre in June 2007. For her creation and performance of No Child... and its subsequent national tour, Nilaja garnered 17 awards including: an Obie Award, a Lucille Lortel Award, two Outer Critics Circle Awards including the John Gassner playwriting award for Outstanding New American Play, a Theatre World Award, the Helen Hayes Award, and an LA Ovation Award and was named the Best One-Person Show at the U.S. Comedy Arts Festival. Nilaja’s New York credits include No Child..., Einstein’s Gift, Pieces of the Throne, Time and the Conways (each with Epic Theatre Ensemble), Huck and Holden (Cherry Lane Theatre), The Cook (Intar), and The Adventures of Barrio Grrrl! (Summer Play Festival). She has also been seen on “30 Rock,” “Law and Order: SVU,” and as Detective Gloria Hubbard in the film “The International”. As a solo performer, Nilaja’s projects include critically acclaimed Blues for a Gray Sun (Intar), La Nubia Latina, Black and Blue, Insufficient Fare, Due to the Tragic Events of... and Mixtures. A native of the Lower East Side, she is a Princess Grace Award winner and has worked as a teaching artist in New York City.

Hired to direct a play with tenth graders at beleaguered Malcolm X High School in the Bronx, actress Nijila Sun chose Timberlake Wertenbaker’s historical drama, Our Country’s Good, which takes place in an Australian penal colony. Despite the skepticism of some faculty, the initial resistance of her unruly students, and the pressures of the world outside of school, Sun and her young actors succeeded in putting up the production. No Child . . . was born of this experience.

Through sixteen characters played by one actor,

she explores truths about American education, the arts, and the human soul. Nilija Sun has fashioned a tribute to teachers and to the flame that flickers in students’ souls. No Child . . . bristles with life. 8



Nilija Sun’s chronicle of individual student achievement through the arts in No Child . . . provides an interesting comment on No Child Left Behind Act, the centerpiece of President George W. Bush’s education policy.

“I don’t know nothing about no No Child, Yes Child, Who Child, What Child. I do know there’s a hole in the fourth floor ceiling ain’t been fixed since ’87, all the bathrooms on the third floor, they broke. Now, who’s accountable for dat? --Janitor Baron, No Child . . .

No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 Overview.

• NCLB requires states and school districts to design standardized tests in mathematics, reading, and writing to measure student progress by race and economic status. • Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) as determined by those tests, is reported for each school as a whole and broken out into the following subgroups: economically disadvantaged students; students from major racial or ethnic groups; students with limited English proficiency; students with special needs. • Public school teachers must pass more rigorous qualification tests. • Schools are held accountable for low scores and low achievement partially determines allocation of Federal funds. • Students in low scoring schools are allowed to transfer to charter schools or other local schools. • If a school fails to make AYP for 5 years, the school must be restructured. If the school fails to make AYP for a sixth year, alternative governance must be implemented.


Critics of NCLB, including teachers unions point out that the Act has not had a major effect on achievement, especially in high schools. They point out that the standardized testing on which NCLB rely is deeply flawed. Critics also say that the more strenuous teacher certification requirements has worsened the teacher shortage. In early 2010, President Obama stated that he will seek to reauthorize NCLB, but in a modified form to work with his Race to the Top Initiative, which encourages states to compete for education funding, rather than automatically receiving it based on a formula. 9




Character Caricature of

We know that political cartoonists live by the art of caricature, but consider literary giant Charles Dickens, who finds universal truths and a lot of fun in the exaggerated portraits he composes in novels such as David Copperfield and Great Expectations. In No Child . . ., Nilija Sun expertly uses the art of caricature to introduce us to both the staff and students of Malcolm X High School in the Bronx.

Politics makes for strange caricatures By David Willson

the art of finding truth in exaggeration

Throughout the 1930s Romare Bearden published political cartoons, taking inspiration from artists such as William Hogarth, Honoré Daumier and Francisco de Goya. He also greatly admired the political work of Grosz and Käthe Kollwitz. In contemporary American caricature he saw the potential to sway public opinion and bring about social change.


Create an exaggerated portrait of someone you know well in any of the following forms: a word picture, a dramatic monologue, a drawing, or a collage.

Romare Bearden

New York State ELA Standard 2 and Arts Standards 1 and 2

collage “Pittsburgh Memory” (1964)



Early in No Child, Nijila Sun expresses doubts about her choice of Our Country’s Good as a project for her high schoolers. MS. SUN. What will these six weeks bring? How will I persuade them to act onstage? (Beat.) Why did I choose a play about convicts? These kids aren’t convicts. The kids in Rikers are convicts. These kids are just in tenth grade. They’ve got the world telling them they are going to end up in jail. Why would I choose a play about convicts? Why couldn’t I choose a play about kings and queens in Africa or the triumphs of the Taino Indian? This totally wouldn’t jive if I were white and trying to do this. How dare I! Why would I choose to do a play about convicts?

What answers come to light for Nilija? Do YOU think she was wrong to select this play?

New York State ELA standard 3

CONSIDER the following quotes from Our Country’s Good

as spoken by characters in No Child and combined as a montage to represent the show the students perform. How do these lines reflect Nijila Sun’s experience at the high school? New York State ELA standard 3 JOSE. You have to be careful […} with begin with IN. It can turn everything Injustice, most of that word is taken but the IN turns it inside out making word in the English language.

words that upside down. up with justice, it the ugliest

SHONDRIKA. Citizens must be taught to obey the law of their own will. I want to rule over responsible human beings. PHILIP. Unexpected situations are often matched by unexpected virtues in people. Are they not? BRIAN. A play should make you understand something new. SHONDRIKA. Human beings— XIOMARA.—have an intelligence— BRIAN.—that has nothing to do— JOSE.—With the circumstances— COCA.—Into which they were born.



No Child... by Nilija Sun

When Nilija Sun decides to put on Timberlake Wertenbaker’s Our Country’s Good with her tenth graders, she is using a play in which the characters put on a play.



PLAY within a PLAY:

Our Country’s Good by Timberlake Wertenbaker

Based on Thomas Keneally’s novel, The Playmaker, Our Country’s Good is set in the1780’s when Australia was settled as a penal colony. It tells the story of Second Lieutenant Ralph Clark’s attempt to put on a production of George Farquhar’s restoration comedy, The Recruiting Officer, using both male and female convicts as actors. Clark is convinced that theatre can be a humanizing force. As Our Country’s Good unwinds, the play examines questions of justice, punishment, and the redeeming value of art.

PLAY within a PLAY within a PLAY:

The Recruiting Officer by George Farquhar

Farquhar’s 1706 comedy follows the exploits and romantic fortunes of two officers, the ladies’ man Plume and the cowardly Brazen as they recruit soldiers in the English town of Shrewsbury. As dramatized in Our Country’s Good, The Recruiting Officer was the first play to be performed in the penal colony of Australia.




ArtsWork.com http://artswork.asu.edu/arts/teachers/resources/theatre1.htm ChildDrama.com http://www.childdrama.com/lessons.html Educational Theatre Association http://www.edta.org/publications/teaching.aspx Kennedy Center http://artsedge.kennedy-center.org/teach/hto.cfm Viola Spolin http://www.spolin.com/


No Child Left Behind http://www2.ed.gov/nclb/landing.jhtml


Roamare Bearden http://www.beardenfoundation.org/


Nilija Sun & Other productions of No Child... http://www.nytimes.com/2006/05/30/theater/30child.html http://www.berkeleyrep.org/season/0708/index.asp





Profile for Syracuse Stage

No Child...  

No Child...- Study Guide

No Child...  

No Child...- Study Guide

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