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Katie Hill
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It’s been said that art imitates life and life imitates art. This anecdote is exemplified in Dallas Children’s Theater’s next production, “Tomás and the Library Lady,” based on the true story of Mexican-American author and educator Tomás Rivera. Rivera, the child of migrant workers, went on to become the first minority Chancellor in the University of California system. This inspirational play goes to great lengths in demonstrating what access to libraries and education can make possible.

 “Tomás and the Library Lady,” based on the Pat Mora book of the same name, is an inspiring true tale of how reading and stories create a path to a better life. This bilingual play follows the life of young Tomás and his family – migrant workers during the 1940s – who move constantly to find new work picking farmers’ crops. One summer, Tomás visits a local public library and discovers a completely different world – one filled with dinosaurs, tigers and faraway places. In the process, he makes a great new friend in the “Library Lady.” While helping Tomás improve his English by reading many new and exciting stories, the librarian fosters his newfound interest in learning while teaching him the importance of getting a good education.

There’s a topical synergy to the content of the play, as the subject of immigration has recently been thrust into the national spotlight on a daily basis. President Trump’s introduction of travel bans has struck a nerve. Americans have responded by marching, rallying, boycotting, cheering – all for or against the cause of immigration protection. Simply put, immigration has become a polarizing subject within our electorate.

Dallas Children’s Theater actor Fernando Hernandez, who plays Tomás’ little brother Enrique, said, “His (Tomás) story and his family’s story is very much my family’s story. We weren’t farm workers, but we are immigrants who have worked hard to get where we are, every single member of my family.I hold this story very near and dear to me. How can I not? It’s a part of my life.”

Sandra Session-Robertson of Dallas Children’s Theater noted, “The beauty of theater is that it helps us understand each other – our struggles, our differences, what makes us the same. We love that families can bring their children to see one of our plays for enjoyment and at the same time learn something about another culture or family that may live right next door to them. Theater helps us appreciate the challenges inherent in all of humanity.”

Hernandez, a 2012 graduate of Plano East High School, was born in Mexico and came to the United States when he was 6 years old. His father is an engineer who was transferred to Dallas.

When asked what he hopes audiences will take away from this production, Hernandez stated, “I really hope that people – kids, parents and anybody who comes to see it – understand the humanity that lies behind the life of immigrants, the fact that change can happen anywhere. A scared little kid, unsure of who and where he is, grows up to become a very important person – all due to the actions of caring people.”

Hernandez added that he was personally impacted by the play’s theme as well. “My ESL teacher was a very important person to me because she gave me all the tools to learn not only the language, but also the new culture I was being introduced to – the very essence of a Library Lady of my own.”

Live theater can often be the conduit for difficult and complex parent-child conversations. Since elementary-aged children typically don’t understand the abstract issues surrounding the immigration conversation, seeing a play about this trending topic offers an excellent springboard for issue-related discussions.

“Tomás and the Library Lady” runs March 24-April 2 and is recommended for ages seven and older. To order tickets, go to dct.org or call 214-740-0051. All performances are at the Rosewood Center for Family Arts; 5938 Skillman Dallas, TX 75231. Dallas Children’s Theater is offering a specially-priced ticket of $10 per person to help encourage all families to see this show.  To redeem this offer, callers can use codeword READ when placing their order online or on the phone.

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