“We need a bit more kindness”: Imagine U debuts “Last Stop on Market Street”


Photo courtesy of Justin Barbin, Wirtz Center

The cast of “Last Stop on Market Street.” The play debuts at the Wirtz Center on Nov. 12th.

Nixie Strazza, Reporter

Imagine U’s production of “Last Stop on Market Street” will bring kindness, empathy and curiosity to the Wirtz Center from Nov. 12-21. 

Based on the Caldecott Medal, Coretta Scott King Award and 2016 Newbery Medal-winning children’s book by Matt de la Peña, “Last Stop on Market Street” tells the story of CJ, a young boy who discovers the magic in his community on a bus ride across town. 

Director and playwright Gloria Bond Clunie (Communication ’75, MFA ’92), a former Evanston/Skokie School District 65 drama teacher, said she wrote “Market Street” to emphasize the need for kindness in the current moment. 

“Look at the world. Do we need a bit more kindness? Do we need more civility?” Clunie asked. “When you’re surrounded by dirt, you’re a better witness for what’s beautiful.”

The play was originally commissioned in 2018 as part of the Children’s Theatre of Charlotte’s Kindness Project, an initiative aimed at promoting the power of small acts of kindness through stage adaptations of popular children’s books. 

Communication senior Libby Hatton wrote an original score for the Imagine U version. Hatton, who learned how to program her electric keyboard to create unique sounds for the show, said developing “Market Street” was both challenging and rewarding. 

“It’s really exciting to be bringing my own written music that came from a little audio file to having real, live musicians play it,” Hatton said. 

After working closely with the children’s theatre in her hometown, Communication freshman Natalie Tangeman said she auditioned for “Market Street” because she was inspired by Imagine U’s dedication to making theater more accessible. 

“I am really passionate about making sure everyone has the opportunity to experience live theatre,” Tangeman said. “That includes kids, people with disabilities and people with sensory sensitivities.” 

During development, actors explored the childlike world of the play through games like tag and leap-frog, she said. The rehearsals paralleled the playfulness of the show, Tangeman added.

Imagine U artistic director Lynn Kelso said the group’s performances tap into societal themes and encourage children to engage with the arts. 

“We don’t have enough springboards for rich conversation, and that’s where a play really affords it,” Kelso said. “It gives you that chance to go beyond just being entertained.”

And the experience doesn’t end when the curtain closes. Creative drama workshops led by students in the Imagine U company will be held after the show. 

Kelso said the workshops are an opportunity for students to gain experience in theatre education and to enrich young audiences’ understanding of important themes. 

“A child audience carries home much more than just that sensory, final image,” Kelso said. “They carry such a heart-filled, emotional response.” 

Performances are accompanied by a take-home “adventure guide” with mazes, puzzles and games related to the show to keep the conversation going. These activities help families integrate new perspectives and responses into their daily lives. 

Clunie said “Market Street” awarded an opportunity to showcase a variety of actors onstage who wanted to reflect the diversity of Evanston in the show. 

“To see a range of people onstage speaks back to who we are, or who we hope to be as a country and as a community,” Clunie said. “There are so many wonderful stories to inform us in different ways.” 

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Twitter: @NixieStrazza

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