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Play celebrates Jackie Robinson, ‘Everybody’s Hero’

Breaking down barriers: Steven Rice in “Everybody’s Hero: The Jackie Robinson Story.”
FOR USE WITH YEAREND STORIES -- FILE --Brooklyn Dodger Jackie Robinson poses during spring training in Vero Beach, Florida, in this March 1956 file photo. The Brooklyn Dodgers opened the 1947 National League season at Ebbets Field against the Boston Braves. Batting second for Brooklyn and playing first base was Jack Roosevelt Robinson, son of a sharecropper, grandson of a slave and the first black man to appear in a major league baseball game since well before the turn of the century. (AP Photo/File) ORG XMIT: NY250

Facts

‘Everybody’s Hero: The Jackie Robinson Story’ Mad River Theatre Works, Raue Center for the Arts, 26 N. Williams St., Crystal Lake 9:30 a.m. Jan. 31 $20; $6 students (815) 356-9212; rauecenter.org

‘Everybody’s Hero: The Jackie Robinson Story’

Mad River Theatre Works, Raue Center for the Arts,” 26 N. Williams St., Crystal Lake

9:30 a.m. Jan. 31

$20; $6 students

(815) 356-9212; rauecenter.org

Didn’t get enough Jackie Robinson from last year’s movie “42”?

In that case, check out the family-friendly “Everybody’s Hero: The Jackie Robinson Story” Jan. 31 at the Raue Center in Crystal Lake. The one-act play with music is a production of Ohio-based Mad River Theatre Works, specializing since 1978 in original plays for children based on American history and folklore.

“The story of Jackie Robinson has relevance in lots of different ways,” said Mad River general manager Chris Westhoff, who also plays Brooklyn Dodgers captain Pee Wee Reese. “It’s an inspirational tale of perseverance and commitment and kindness in the face of adversity — and of course it has a lot to say about the history of racism in this country.”

“Everybody’s Hero,” a 2004 Mad River production now touring regionally for the third time, tells the story of Robinson’s life from the age of 18 through his experiences in college and the army and professional baseball, always confronted by racial prejudice, And it ends at the moment the initially hostile Reese, representing the obstacles Robinson has had to overcome, publicly embraces him as a player.

Like all Mad River productions, “Everybody’s Hero” is presented with minimal sets, relying primarily on music and imagination to set the scene. A particular challenge in a show that emphasizes major-league baseball action.

“We try to create the impression of playing baseball without actually doing it,” Westhoff said. “The music helps with that and one of the cast members who plays the baseball announcer does a great job creating the atmosphere of the baseball stadium.”

Mastering the art of suggestion is a necessity for a company that tours most of its season, staging more than 200 performances yearly throughout the Midwest, but Westhoff said they wouldn’t have it any other way.

“We love it; it’s what we do,” he said. “It’s our mission to develop plays like this and take them to young people all over the country — especially those who have little access to theater.

“Presenting the story of such an important figure in American history is a privilege and we’re happy to do it.”

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Facts

‘Everybody’s Hero: The Jackie Robinson Story’ Mad River Theatre Works, Raue Center for the Arts, 26 N. Williams St., Crystal Lake 9:30 a.m. Jan. 31 $20; $6 students (815) 356-9212; rauecenter.org
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