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Play by Jean Rattigan-Rohr to be featured in National Black Theatre Festival

"Valued Voices," a play written by Jean Rattigan-Rohr, associate professor in Elon's School of Education, will be featured in The Reader’s Theatre of New Works section of the 2011 National Black Theater Festival. The performance will be at 10 a.m., Aug. 2nd, in the Gaines Ballroom I – Embassy Suites Hotel, Winston Salem, N.C.

Director Jeffery Anderson-Gunter from Los Angeles will be directing the reading of "Valued Voices." This year, The National Black Theatre Festival will feature celebrity co-chairs, Dr. T’Keyah Crystal and Lamman Rucker.

The Festival is projected to attract more than 65,000 attendees, including more than 70 celebrities of film, television and stage and more than 100 performances by the best Black theatre companies from the United States and abroad.

"Valued Voices" had its initial reading on Elon’s campus in Whitely Auditorium in 2008 to an audience of more than 100 students, parents and teachers.

According to Rattigan-Rohr, the things that affect student learning are many, especially in schools with heavy minority populations: parental involvement, unequal distribution of experienced teachers, the “pedagogy of poverty,” education reforms and low student expectations, to name just a few. She wove those themes throughout her play.

The play follows Jamal Harris, an African-American student repeating the 9th grade at the fictional Southwestern High. Jamal demonstrates unsuitable behaviors that label him a "failure" or "student at risk" despite his capacity for success. His story reveals challenges that result from the over-arching educational system and interaction with teachers, students and parents.

In the play, Harris is given in-school suspension when he scuffles with a classmate in an English class studying Shakespeare. His attention dwindles after his teacher dismisses an explanation of a sonnet that the teen provides using modern language. Scenes with principals, relatives, friends and school staff begin to unfold, demonstrating for the audience how many students like Harris are “talented thinkers” overlooked by a system that places heavier emphasis on standardized tests and rote memorization.

Dan Anderson,
7/29/2011 3:33 PM