Chicago Children’s Theatre presents Jabari Dreams of Freedom


By Elaine Hegwood Bowen, MSJ, Chicago Crusader

Meet Jabari, a young boy from the South Side of Chicago, scared and confused by the turbulent, sometimes unjust world around him. A gifted artist, Jabari escapes to the Civil Rights era through his colorful paintings where he interacts with children from the past – including a young Barack Obama. His poignant dreams of freedom empower Jabari to live courageously in the face of fear.

Chicago Children’s Theatre is excited to present the world premiere of “Jabari Dreams of Freedom,” a new play for young audiences by Nambi E. Kelley, the award-winning Chicago actress and playwright, of the acclaimed production of “Native Son” at Court Theatre, and star of “Two Trains Running” at Goodman Theatre.

Nambi Kelley
Nambi Kelley


Filled with powerful, timely and uplifting themes and characters, “Jabari Dreams of Freedom,” created especially for Chicago Children’s Theatre, is a love letter to the children of Chicago.

“Young people need this play right now,” says Chicago Children’s Theatre Artistic Director Jacqueline Russell. “They need to learn that despite whatever is going on in the world around them that every child has the power to find courage, to recognize their potential and to share their own gifts.”

The cast boasts two young Chicago actors, 13-year-old Philip Cusic and Cameron A. Goode, also 13, rotating in the role of Jabari. Cusic performed in “A Christmas Carol” for two seasons at Goodman Theatre and in Provision Theatre’s “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever” and “Pinocchio.” Goode’s credits include “Oliver!” at Drury Lane Oakbrook and Emerald City/First Stage’s “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer the Musical” at the Broadway Playhouse.

The cast also features Damon Gillespie (direct from Broadway’s “Disney’s Newsies The Musical,” also “West Side Story” at Carnegie Hall, among others. Gavin Law- rence is also in the cast. He is a performer at Goodman and Steppenwolf; and his play “Cut Flowers” won five Black Theatre Alliance Awards.

Cameron Goode
Cameron Goode

Performances are April 5-May 1 at the Ruth Page Center for the Arts, 1016 N. Dearborn St., Chicago, a short walk from the CTA Red Line Clark/Division and Chicago stops, and the Clark, Broadway, Division and Chicago Avenue bus lines. Street parking is available, and the Ruth Page offers discounted garage parking with ticket validation at 1250 N. Dearborn and 1030 N. State.

Tickets are $10-$39. “Jabari Dreams of Freedom” is recommended for ages 9 and up. For tickets and information, visit or call (872) 222-9555.

Email or call (773) 227-0180 x 13 to learn about deeply discounted group rates for schools, playgroups, birthday parties and scouting groups. American Sign Language interpreted performances, touch tours and autism-friendly tours can be provided upon request.

Making last minute plans? Balcony rush tickets are available for just $10 day of show only, one hour before curtain, subject to availability. Rush tickets are sold in person only, not valid online or via phone, and are subject to availability.

Philip Cusic
Philip Cusic

Nambi E. Kelley (playwright) has penned plays for Steppenwolf, Goodman and Court Theatre in Chicago, Lincoln Center in New York, and internationally. Most recently, Kelley’s adaption of “Native Son” at Court Theatre, co-produced by American Blues, was named a “Top 10 Play of 2014” by the Chicago Tribune. She recently returned to Singapore to perform in her co-adaptation of “The Book of Living and Dying,” which will be published in an anthology of plays in Singapore in 2014.

She has numerous other writing credits and was recently honored at the Black Ensemble Theatre for her contributions in playwriting. She also serves as a Chicago Dramatists Playwright-In-Residence, and is playwright emeritus with MPAACT, Chicago. Also an actress, Kelley has worked on stage and TV in Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, and internationally, playing opposite such artists as Phylicia Rashad, Alfre Woodard, Blair Underwood and Patrick Swayze. Kelley guest lectures at Lake Forest College, has a BFA from The Theatre School at De Paul University, formerly known as The Goodman School of Drama, and holds an MFA in interdisciplinary arts from Goddard College in Vermont.

About Chicago Children’s Theatre:

Since its launch in 2005, Chicago Children’s Theatre has cemented its reputation as the city’s largest professional theater company devoted exclusively to children and young families. The company believes children should be treated as the sophisticated audiences that they are with high-profile and award-winning talent, inventive production values and compelling stories that challenge, educate and entertain. Chicago Children’s Theatre evolved out of Chicago’s need for high-quality, professional year-round children’s programming to match the quality and significance of theatrical powerhouses such as Steppenwolf Theatre Company, Goodman Theatre and Lookingglass Theatre.

Chicago Children’s Theatre also offers a full roster of after school theater classes and summer camps. It also honors a strong commitment to low-income families and children with special needs. In partnership with Chicago Public Schools and Target, the company has offered free tickets and transportation to more than 5,000 Chicago-area low-income students each season.

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