As the school year begins and parents eagerly pack students off with new Hannah Montana back packs and dinosaur lunch boxes, the question of the quality of education raises its multi-faceted head once again.  What legacy are we giving our youth, a concrete foundation of learning or a quagmire of inconsistencies and mixed messages?  Are we emphasizing the basic tools of academic success as well as instilling a good value system of ethics and morals?

    Playwright Nilaja Sun, a teaching artist for a decade in the Bronx public schools, is tackling many of these issues and concerns in her compelling new work “No Child” currently holding class at the TheaterWorks in Hartford through Sunday, October 5, in its Connecticut premiere.  This is a must-see for every parent, educator, school administrator and any one who cares about the state and future of our education process.

   The picture is not pretty at Malcolm X High School in the Bronx as Ms. Sun, an energized Donnetta Lavinia Grays, approaches her first class of students, students who are unmotivated, sassy, disrespectful and lost in the system that devalues them.  Enthusiastically, Ms. Sun offers these young rejects of society the chance to prove themselves and develop a modicum of self-esteem in the process, by putting on a play about convicts in Australia, “Our Country’s Good.”

    Lizan Mitchell, Portia and Anthony Mark Stockard are excellent as they portray the philosophical custodian, a variety of multi-cultural students, the supportive principal and a grieving grandparent, exposing their backgrounds and prejudices, their shortcomings and dreams, in this comic and dramatic tale of inner city schools.  The messages of child abuse, gang warfare, teen pregnancy, dropout statistics and criminal potential ring all too true under the fine direction of Rob Ruggiero, associate artistic director.

   For tickets ($37-47-58), call TheaterWorks, 233 Pearl Street, Hartford at 860-527-7838 or online at ; Performances are Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., with matinees Saturday and Sunday at 2:30 p.m.

    Gain new respect and insights about the career of teaching as you gather in the classroom with an eager, novice, innovative teaching artist as she faces her first class of academically challenged and disadvantaged inner city youth.  Learn how touching lives can be a miraculous experience.

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