Picture the courage and fortitude it must take to be a new teacher in the inner city school system, a yet-to-be-tested, but eager instructor ready to face a classroom of unmotivated, sassy, disrespectful kids who have long ago been written off as hopeless.

Meet Nilaja Sun and discover the amazing work she lived through and wrote about in “No Child,” her personal experiences as a teaching artist for a decade in the Bronx public high schools. Long Wharf Theatre’s Stage II in New Haven will be holding classes with the enthusiastic Ms. Sun until Sunday, April 18, as she takes a classroom of teenagers lost in the system and injects them with a healthy dose of self-respect.

Her plan is to expose them to literature, in this case a play set in 1788 Australia in a prison colony, “Our Country’s Good,” where the inmates put on a play for themselves.  Nilija Sun is unbelievable as she, in the snap of a finger, becomes a philosophical eighty- year old janitor who narrates the tale as well as each of her multi-cultural students, the overwhelmed Ms. Tam, the supportive principal Mrs. Kennedy and a grieving grandmother, in addition to playing herself.  In all, she becomes seventeen characters in a wild seventy- minute theatrical ride.

We come to know Jerome, Jose, Chris, Brian, Shanrika, Philip and the other tenth graders as Ms. Sun challenges them to prove something to themselves, that they are worthy of feeling pride, that they can be a team and achieve.  If children need a reason to come to school every day, then Ms. Sun is determined to provide it.

For tickets ($30-65), call Long Wharf Theatre, 222 Sargent Drive, New Haven at 203-787-4282 or online at www.longwharf.org.  Performances are Tuesday at 7 p.m., Wednesday at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m., Thursday and Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m.

Come early and view the exciting gallery of self-portraits, in the style of Picasso, that grace the lobby, courtesy of elementary and middle school classes at Davis Street School in New Haven and the Hamden Middle School.

On behalf of the Youth Continuum, Long Wharf will be collecting bus tokens and 10-ride ticket passes to provide transportation for the more than 1000 homeless youth in the community.  Bus passes and tokens may be purchased online at cttransit.com, the Connecticut Transit Center at the corner of Chapel and Church Streets in New Haven and at participating Stop and Shops.

Immerse yourself in “No Child” and learn first hand what is the worst and the best in our school system and consider it a personal call to action to respond.

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