Death, to children, is very much like sex–they’re acutely aware of it, but they don’t quite know what to make of it. The Arkansaw Bear, by Aurand Harris, deals brilliantly with death in a way that children can understand. When not allowed to visit her dying grandfather, a little girl named Tish flees into the woods, where she encounters the World’s Greatest Dancing Bear. But the bear is being chased by the Great Ringmaster, who wants to take him away forever to the Great Center Ring. Tish negotiates with the Ringmaster for a few extra hours, which the bear uses to pass on his skills to a young bear who happens by. Director Rives Collins has staged the play for the Chicago Children’s Theatre with enormous wit and dignity, helping children to laugh as they confront their fears, and Harris’s play never becomes too sentimental or too scary. North Shore Country Day School through December 8 (Diller Srteet Theater, 310 Green Bay Road, Winnetka, 708-491-0643). Tuesdays and Thursday, 10:30 AM; Saturdays and Sundays, 2 PM; Friday, November 29, 2 PM. $5.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/John Bridges.