You're never too young to write a Broadway show.
A group of fifth-grade students from the Hawes Elementary School in Ridgewood, NJ, will perform a new play, Justice, Do It, on Broadway at the Roundabout Theatre Company's Stage Right on Oct. 27 at 7 PM. The play -- written, staged, and performed by the children -- deals with sweatshop conditions in the overseas factories of certain U.S. corporations.
The kids wrote the play a year ago -- when they were in fourth grade -- and planned to perform it for the students at their school, but district administrators canceled the show at the last minute, claiming it was inappropriate for elementary age children. After reading of the incident in a New York Times article by Evelyn Nieves (June 26, 1997), Scott Ellis, resident director of the Roundabout Theatre, called the administrators' action a "cruel suppression of the students' creativity."
Ellis immediately responded by asking the Roundabout's general manager, Ellen Richard, for permission to offer the students of Hawes Elementary School the use of Roundabout's facilities to perform Justice, Do It. Roundabout's management supported Ellis' request, and the children and their families enthusiastically accepted the offer.
Throughout the month the students having been rehearsing at the Roundabout Stage Right theatre during the day. In addition, Ellis visited the students at their school to discuss the logistics of staging their show on a professional stage. Following the performance on Oct. 27 there will be an opening night reception for the performers and guests.
The students first decided to do background research for Justice, Do It after seeing several news reports on disturbing conditions in factories in Indonesia and Haiti.
Under the guidance of their teacher, Maria Sweeney, the children extensively researched the issue, which included watching segments on the issues on the network television shows "48 Hours" and "Dateline," as well as reading magazine articles in Time for Kids and other publications.
The children's mission in staging the play was to get their peers to think about the workers who make the products that are used in everyday life. The children wanted to make a difference by informing others about what they viewed as a critically important social problem.
The students, who were initially heartbroken over the cancellation of their play, are thrilled to now have the opportunity to reach a larger audience than they would have had in their school auditorium.
The Broadway performance of Justice, Do It is by invitation only
. "We're happy to support the children's creativity and encourage them to use live theatrical performance as a means for social change," said Ellen Richard.
--By Rebecca Paller