NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – Get ready for a transformed Madison Square Garden. Instead of hoops or hockey, actors will play center court.

Thousands of students will help make history when “To Kill A Mockingbirdbecomes the first Broadway play performed at MSG.

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Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza and the cast met to talk about the milestone Wednesday morning, reports CBS2’s Dick Brennan.

On Feb. 26, for one night only, 18,000 students will attend a free performance of Harper Lee‘s classic story of race, injustice and character.

Carranza says as a child, the arts played an important role in his own family and seeing this production can open the door to opportunity.

“The skills that they learn and the ability to express themselves are unparalleled,” he said.

Actor Kyle Scatliffe plays Tom Robinson, the man wrongly accused of rape. Scatliffe says the special event at the Garden is especially meaningful during Black History Month.

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“So you can see the two perspectives of what people think life is actually like in that time period, and I think that is really important – especially in this month, and especially for all those students that are coming to watch it,” said Scatliffe.

“I think in the development of a young student in America today, there’s a series of important books to read and it’s one of them,” said show director Bart Sher. “If you read Harper Lee, next to Toni Morrison, next to August Wilson, you start to get a sense of who we are as Americans.”

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In addition to eight shows a week at the Shubert Theatre, the cast is rehearsing for the special performance at MSG. This production has played to sold-out audiences since it opened on Broadway.

“We’re re-staging it completely differently,” said Sher. “It’s all laid out in one: One end is the courtroom, the other end is the porch, and they travel from space to space.”

“I hope they have a captivating experience, a thrilling experience,” said playwright Aaron Sorkin.

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With “To Kill A Mockingbird” this month, many of those 18,000 students will experience a Broadway show for the first time.