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Des Moines Performing Arts offers experience to teach kids about racism through live-streamed play, online workshop

Des Moines Performing Arts is one of the many producing partners for the play, which is completely virtual and can be streamed for free this weekend.

DES MOINES, Iowa — As the world moves forward amid the Black Lives Matter movement, some families are trying to find ways to teach their young kids about racism and how it impacts everyone's lives. 

Starting this weekend, Des Moines Performing Arts (DMPA) is going to help with that by live streaming a production completely free for families.

"A Kids Play About Racism" is a theatrical adaptation of Jelani Memory's "A Kids Book About Racism."  It's an unprecedented partnership between 41 theaters across the county, according to Karoline Myers, the education manager at DMPA. 

Lead producers of the show include Bay Area Children's Theatre, Alliance Theatre and Seattle Children's Theatre.

The play is available to watch by visiting DMPA's website. It premiered on Saturday. It'll be available to stream the entire weekend. On Sunday, parents can register their kids for an online workshop to discuss the play. 

It starts at 4 p.m., and registration is required. The workshop includes interactive community builders, games, and writing prompts to help students in writing about their experiences in their own words.

The workshop is designed for kids entering grades 2-5, according to DMPA.

"So, this work was created this summer directly in response to everything that's been happening in our country around conversations with racism in the Black Lives Matter movement," Myers said. 

Myers said the production was made with the acknowledgement that kids are listening to what's going on around them, and they have questions. 

Since theaters are closed across the country, producers crafted the entire show via Zoom meetings and with green screens. 

"It's a lot of coordination," Myers said. "I think during this time of the pandemic, with traditional theater being closed and has allowed artists and theater companies to take a pause and think about new ways of delivering stories," said Myers.

"As a member of Des Moines Performing Arts education team, I've always believed so strongly that the arts can serve as both a window and a mirror for our society and our individual," explained Myers. 

"This can be a great launching point that takes such care and love with talking about what racism is in very developmentally appropriate ways for children, really from preschool all the way up through elementary school, and does it in a way that really focuses on the many emotion that children may be experiencing no matter what their experiences with this topic," she said. 

"Kids can sometimes... they feel the full range of emotion but we don't always have the tools to articulate them, and so watching together, and then having the great resources and kind of activity guide that we have, that can give parents further launching points can really be a great springboard for starting those difficult conversations," Myers said.

The play is adapted and directed by award-winning director and Theatre for Young Audiences USA artist Khalia Davis. It features an entirely Black and BIPOC cast and creative team from across the United States.

Credit: Des Moines Performing Arts
Khalia Davis adapted Jelani Memory's "A Kids Book About Racism" into the production "A Kids Play About Racism." She also directed the show.

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