By Elaine Hegwood Bowen, M.S.J.
Chicago Children’s Theatre has joined a groundbreaking collaboration among 37 Theaters for Young Audiences across the United States to present the virtual premiere of “A Kids Play About Racism,” a theatrical adaptation of Jelani Memory’s “A Kids Book About Racism.”
Premiering August 1 and 2 for free on the streaming platform Broadway On Demand https://broadwayondemand.unreel.me/series/teJ66dfuOEak-a-kids-play-about-racism.
“A Kids Play About Racism” will utilize theater to offer young children and families a way to engage in meaningful conversations about race.
The new work is adapted and directed by award-winning director and TYA artist Khalia Davis and will be brought to life by an entirely Black and BIPOC cast and creative team from across the United States.
As part of the production, educational materials developed by Seattle Children’s Theatre in collaboration with the Northwest African American Museum will extend the experience and enhance age-appropriate engagement.
I have visited this museum in Seattle, and it has a wealth of historical information—not just about its native son the late iconic guitarist Jimi Hendrix, as well as Ray Charles and Quincy Jones—but about the original Black settler to the northwest area of the state of Washington in 1850, whose name was George Washington. He was a free man, but because he was African American, Washington couldn’t buy land, and a white family acquired 640 acres and sold it to Washington, upon which he founded the town of Centralia.
The time is right for a play on this topic. “I jumped at the opportunity to adapt Jelani Memory’s book ‘A Kids Book About Racism‘ into a theatrical piece for young audiences simply because it meant we were recognizing the importance of including children in these difficult conversations,” shared lead artist Khalia Davis.
The book’s author Jelani Memory said: “When I wrote ‘A Kids Book About Racism,’ I wrote it for my own kids. I never could have imagined it would have spread so far and wide to thousands of kids all over the world or turned into a nationwide theatrical event. I am thrilled to see what Khalia and these other amazing artists create.”
All 37 partnering theaters are members of Theatre for Young Audiences USA (TYA/USA), the national organization representing the field of theater for children and family audiences. The coalition is led by the lead producing team of Bay Area Children’s Theatre, Seattle Children’s Theatre, and Alliance Theatre in Atlanta.
Board President Armando Chacon. For more information, visit chicagochildrenstheatre.org/.