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'Rickshaw Girl' debuting at San Ramon theater

Play follows Bangladeshi girl who challenges social norms about women in the workforce

San Ramon's Front Row Theater stage is set to host a new children's play about a Bangladeshi girl who tries to use her artistic talents to help her family earn more money in a community where only the boys and men are supposed to work for pay.

"Rickshaw Girl," presented by the Bay Area Children's Theatre, begins its Bay Area run at the Front Row the next two weekends before it moves on to performances in San Francisco and Berkeley through mid-May.

The play follows Naima, a smart and artistically gifted girl in Bangladesh whose family is so poor they had to take her out of school -- and she worries the same will soon happen to her younger sister. Naima devises a plan to help her hardworking, but exhausted, father earn more money for the family in the face of a village that demands girls stay at home and out of the workforce.

Adapted for the stage by playwright Aditi Kapil, "Rickshaw Girl" is inspired by the 2007 novel of the same name by East Bay author Mitali Perkins.

"When you create a story in your head with characters who exist only in your imagination, it is otherworldly to see them come to life," Perkins said after attending an early workshop of Kapil's play adaptation. "As I listened in wonder, I found myself moved by the plight of a young Bangladeshi girl who wants so desperately to help her family."

"I had written the darn thing, but last night Naima's story was presented to me in a fresh and sweet form," she added. "It was the same; it was completely different. It was magic."

The local production is directed by Vidhu Singh and stars Emily Alvarado as Naima, with live percussion by Amit Sharma.

"Rickshaw Girl" opens this Saturday at the Front Row Theater, 17011 Bollinger Canyon Road in the Dougherty Valley. Recommended for children 6 years old and up, it plays Saturdays and Sundays at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. through April 10 in San Ramon.

The play shifts to the Children's Creativity Museum Theater in San Francisco from April 16 to May 1 and then runs at the Osher Studio in Berkeley from May 7-22.

For tickets and other information, call 973-3343 or visit the production webpage.

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