Interactive play for kids explores issues of race, diversity

Chicago Proud
CHICAGO (WLS) -- Preschoolers from Francis Xavier Warde School packed the Chicago Children's Theater to see a production of "My Wonderful Birthday Suit!" on Wednesday.

It's an interactive play set during a birthday party. While lighthearted, it also explores serious subject matter, and confronts the issues of race and hurtful language.

"Children as young as 2 and 3 really do, whether we know it or not, understand and perceive and know that people are different colors," playwright and director Gloria Bond Clunie said.

She said she hopes the play will spark conversations that will lead to the tolerance and celebration of diversity. They're lessons for both young theater-goers and their parents.

"Learning the difficult decisions and things in life. Really learning to be happy and look on the bright side of things," parent Susan Allen said.

Actress Melanie Brezill said that in talking to the audience after a performance, the play seems to resonate with children.

"We get some amazing responses. Respect is one. The idea of saying you're sorry when you make a mistake," Brezill said.

The play was inspired by the children's book, "The Skin You Live In," by local author Michael Tyler.

"It sparked a conversation. And that conversation was, in the time that we're in now, what do young children perceive and understand about race," said Clunie.

"My Wonderful Birthday Suit!" will be at the Chicago Children's Theater in the West Loop through February 18.
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