"Something Happened in Our Town" student cast members. Photo by Kaitlin Randolph.

On May 25, 2020, our Minneapolis community was rocked when George Floyd, a Black man, was killed by a White police officer. Tragically, this was not the first nor the last death of an unarmed Black person at the hands of the police. In our community alone, the names of Daunte Wright, Jamar Clark, Philando Castile, and many others stand as reminders of the challenge of police violence and accountability in our community.

Throughout Minnesota, families are having important conversations about racism and how it affects their families, communities, and our country. What we may not realize is how those conversations differ, depending on the street, the home, or the family. How are people with a different lived experience talking about how race impacts all of us? What can we learn from others about how to have these difficult conversations with our kids?

Beginning February 27, Children’s Theatre Company is presenting the world premiere play Something Happened in Our Town, by Cheryl L. West, based on the book of the same title. When an unarmed Black man is killed by a White police officer, best friends Josh and Emma don’t know how to react or make sense of it. As they talk to their respective families, audiences will gain perspective on the important conversations that might be happening next door, across the street, or down the block, and how those conversations can help inform the way we talk to our own kids.

The play is based on The New York Times best-selling children’s book Something Happened in Our Town, written by psychologists Marianne Celano, Ph.D., ABPP; Marietta Collins, Ph.D.; and Ann Hazzard, Ph.D., ABPP. It was hailed by Vogue as “a great educational resource for parents … to talk to children about race and racism and trauma, [and] how to identify and counter racial injustice.”

Something Happened in Our Town book illustration by Jennifer Zivoin.

Playwright Cheryl L. West has expanded the original story, adding new plot elements, further developing characters, and adding a police officer character in an effort to show how different lived experiences bring different perspectives to a complicated issue. West calls the play, “a call to action to facilitate the much-needed discussion about inclusion, compassion, and what it really means to be peace makers in our homes, schools, and communities.”

CTC has also partnered with WCCO-TV to spread the word about this important play, first with a family special in the fall of 2021 in which families reacted to the message of the book and shared their conversations about race within their own households. This winter, WCCO will present a multi-episode series that follows the creation of this world premiere play, from the adaptation by the playwright, to the creation and construction of the set, costume, and props, to the first rehearsal, to performances in front of an audience, and finally, to the thrill of opening night.

Don’t miss this engaging work that resonates with compassion and humor as it helps families start conversations about how their neighbors’ perspectives might be different than their own. For tickets and more information, visit childrenstheatre.org/town.

Something Happened in Our Town
By Cheryl L. West
Directed by Timothy Douglas
February 27 – March 27, 2022 at Children’s Theatre Company
Best for ages 7 and up
A Children’s Theatre Company Original World Premiere Production

Friendships challenged, a world changed, and two young people struggling to make sense of it together. Follow friends and neighbors, Josh and Emma, as they navigate their way through an experience beyond their control and understanding.

Josh and Emma have many questions about the tragic killing of a Black man by a White police officer. Real questions that deserve real answers. But during conversations over dinner, at bedtime, before and after school, their families (one Black and one White) find such answers don’t come easily. Layered with compassion and humor, this show invites you to walk alongside Josh and Emma as they confront uncertainty within their town and between themselves. More than just a “must see,” this play will help families more fully understand how their neighbors’ experiences might be different than their own.