After a career teaching children and worries about students meeting the needs of the 2002 No Child Left Behind act, Nilaja Sun felt prompted to create "No Child..." a critically acclaimed and Obie award-winning one-woman show. The one-night only production will be 7 p.m. Jan. 30 in La Jolla Playhouse's Mandell Weiss Theatre, UCSD campus.
Sun taught in New York City schools for seven years and has been a teaching artist ever since working with math, science and drama teachers in different schools. Sun received a grant from the New York State Council on the Arts to write her play, and "No Child..." was commissioned to be performed by the Epic Theater Center.
"It was about a three-month process of thinking, writing and editing," Sun said. "I really wanted to write a piece on the experience, process and journey of a workshop we do in high school and middle schools as teaching artists."
The play unfolds through Sun's impersonation of 17 characters from her career, including the teachers, students, parents, administrators, janitors and security guards found in schools.
"I originally wrote it as a three-person play, and then one of the dramaturges at Epic suggested I do it as a solo piece. I said only if I have the best director because it's a special piece and challenging. I'd have the weight of trying to entertain an audience on my head, hands and spirit."
Hal Brooks was brought in to direct "No Child..." and he also directed the national tour of the play. Sun recently licensed "No Child..." so theaters around the country can perform the show with one or more actors.
"I want to make sure that no matter what anyone's ideas are on public arts education, they see the students as human as possible with sprits and souls," she said. "Maybe it'll remind people of themselves when they were younger — whether they went to public school or not — and help them identify with the students or teachers on how important it is to bring the visual arts to all of our schools."
The same evening, the Playhouse will celebrate its award-winning education and outreach programs and recognize 25 teachers who have participated in them. Proceeds from the event will benefit these programs.
The Playhouse will also host a VIP reception with Sun after the show. Tickets are $40-$100 at (858) 550-1010 or www.lajollaplayhouse.org.