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Christian Science Monitor: “When Busing Works”

Monday February 27, 2017

Inside the darkened auditorium, a velvet curtain is pulled back to reveal a hand-painted backdrop of a red-hued African savanna. The first wave of dancers skitter across the spot-lit stage, their youthful faces upturned beneath handcrafted animal masks. After four months of rehearsals, “Lion King Jr.,” a version of the celebrated movie and Broadway musical, is bursting to life onstage.

The cast is racially and ethnically mixed: Scar, the conniving uncle, is played by an African-American girl. Zazu, the simpering courtier, is portrayed by a white. The rainbow colors of their costumes – made in-house  – seem to reflect the diversity of the exuberant middle-schoolers and the capacity crowd of parents, teachers, and fellow students enjoying the show.

Middle-schooler Desiree Smith – playing Scar – opens the play ‘Lion King Jr.’ at R.J. Kinsella Magnet School of Performing Arts in Hartford, Conn.
Melanie Stetson Freeman/Staff 

Four rows back sits Stephanie Harris. Her daughter, Tyra, a sixth-grader, plays a gazelle, and Ms. Harris has driven 20 miles from her suburban home to watch her. It’s a journey that Tyra makes daily on a school bus, along with hundreds of other suburban kids who attend R.J. Kinsella Magnet School of Performing Arts, not far from downtown Hartford, Conn.  READ THE FULL ARTICLE