The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Wednesday May 31st

Q&A with Nilaja Sun

Since 2007, Nilaja Sun has traveled around the country performing her one-woman show “No Child…,” the title of which refers to the No Child Left Behind act, which turned ten this week. The play is being performed this weekend as part of PlayMakers Repertory Company’s PRC2 series.

“No Child…” explores the characters, conflicts and humor at a fictional New York City high school based off of the one Sun taught at for eight years. Staff writer Grace Tatter sat down with Sun to talk about the importance of theater education, how the response to the show has changed over the years and her recent stint on NBC’s “30 Rock.”

See the show:

Time: 7:30 p.m. tonight through Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday
Location: Kenan Theatre
Show Info

DTH: Why do you think education is an important topic for theater?

Nilaja Sun: I didn’t really start out thinking of it as an important topic for theater, but as something close to my heart. I’ve been a teacher since 1998, and I felt that arts education and bringing arts into some of our poorer schools is something people don’t know about. That’s why I created this piece. I wanted to tell the story of a teaching artist who goes into an inner-city, resistant school and works on a piece of the arts — and the ups and downs of that — and keeping the humor in it.

DTH: How has the response to the show changed since 2007, when you first performed it, as budget cuts have increasingly affected arts in the schools?

NS: People who come to see the show may think it’s an indictment on the No Child Left Behind Act, but they end up finding out it’s more of a spotlight on great teachers. I have found that since I’ve done the show there are more people saying, “arts have been cut from our school,” and that has to do with the recession as well. I always say that I can keep doing the show, and this can be your arts program! Bring your kids to the show.

DTH: Have you gotten feedback from your past students and co-workers?

NS: They see me more as a teaching artist. Even though I’ve told them I’m an actress, when they see the show, it’s “Ms. Sun, I can’t believe you can do that!” Other students see more of themselves. Those who are most familiar with me see me as a teacher doing this show and they’re really excited to see me — more than those I haven’t worked with — (because they) can really familiarize themselves with the characters. I still have so many students see the show in different states in different years.

DTH: One of your other projects includes a guest role on “30 Rock” this season. What was that like?

NS: I love “30 Rock.” It’s my favorite show. When I got the call, I was so excited. It’s the Christmas special, so all break, my parents and I watched every showing. I’ll also be on the Valentine’s Day special. I just love “30 Rock.”

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