Ben Carson, the Play

January 23, 1995

For four years, the Columbia School of Theatrical Arts has run its youth series, presenting plays to school children at the popular Toby's Dinner Theater in Columbia. Past productions included such traditional children's fare as "The Velvetine Rabbit" and "The Secret Garden," quality shows that earned enthusiastic acclaim.

This year's production should be no different. In a stroke of brillance, director and playwright Carole Graham Lehan has turned to one of Howard County's own to weave a story that educates and inspires.

"Ben Carson, M.D.," adapted from the autobiographies of the noted black neurosurgeon at Johns Hopkins Hospital, will be showcased at Toby's through Feb. 23. It will then move to Arena Players in Baltimore, where the theatrical arts school has formed a partnership to bring the play to Baltimore middle school students on March 30 and 31.

It is not often that we recommend a theatrical arts production on these pages. But "Carson" is an exception. Not only has Ms. Lehan put together a fine production, but it serves as an invaluable teaching tool during a time when too many youths want for motivation and direction. Parents, too, can learn something from this work.

Ms. Lehan's adaptation follows the life of Dr. Carson from childhood through his historic surgery separating Siamese twins, Patrick and Benjamin Binder of Germany. It is a true Horatio Alger story that sees young Carson as a street-tough adolescent who trades a knife for a scalpel. Dr. Carson, who lives in West Friendship with his wife and children, approved the production, and in doing so shares his wisdom and deep devotion to God.

The issues raised in the play are timely and well worth being seen by all children. From the detrimental role of television, peer pressure to urban violence, it is all chronicled under stark lighting by a ensemble of five actors who bring more than 40 characters to life. However, unlike so many soap operas that pass for art these days, "Carson" is a consistently uplifting, true-life drama.

Proceeds from "Carson" will go to benefit the non-profit theatrical arts company and Dr. Carson's USA Scholars Scholarship Fund. The benefit to those who see the play will be the enrichment that comes from witnessing how perseverance can lead to greatness.

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