Who knew that Dr. Seuss's Green Eggs & Ham could be utilized to teach children about racial acceptance and open-mindedness? But the’s theatrical production of Dr. Suess’s The Sneetches and Green Eggs & Ham did just that last weekend, when the stories were staged for over 400 children and parents at the SOPAC Loft.
Children and adults alike were spellbound by the performances of actress Emily Zacharias, opera singer Lori Mirabal, orchestra leader Jim Buchanan and his many fine musicians, tenor Keenan Buckley in the youth’s role of Sam-I-Am, and the CHS Special Dancers—all under the direction of Ruthanna Graves.
The event was conceived and developed by the Coalition as part of its Integration through the Arts program which uses the arts to build bridges across racial boundaries.
“Our goal was to bring our message of integration out to a younger audience,” according to Program Director Audrey Rowe, “And by the looks of all the smiling faces, this performance more than exceeded our expectations.” The idea was so popular that reservations for seats closed a full week before the performance.
The stories and the way they were staged were first and foremost entertaining but educational as well. After mesmerizing the audience with her reading of The Sneetches with the CHS dancers playing the parts of the Sneetches, Emily Zacharias asked the children some questions about difference and fairness. They happily yelled out responses and it was clear they got the idea.
The musical adaptation of Green Eggs & Ham by composer Robert Kapilow combines story-telling, singing, and orchestral music that is a modern pastiche of classical composers, soul, jazz, and more. Lori Mirabal taught the kids a few things about opera and the orchestra and then captivated all with her voice. It was a clever way to retell the classic Dr. Seuss story about learning to be open to the unexpected and to new experiences.
Funding for this program was provided in part by the New Jersey State Council on the Arts/Department of State, a Partner Agency of the National Endowment for the Arts and administered by the Essex County Division of Cultural Affairs. The 2011 grant also covers a photography workshop “Through the Lens of Integration” to be held later this spring. Visit the Coalition website at www.twotowns.org for more information.
Nancy Gagnier is the Executive Director of the South Orange-Maplewood Community Coalition on Race.